A Look at the Jazz
Once among the kings of the jungle the Jazz have sunk to the bottom of the food chain late in the season and everybody is taking a bite. They have won only once in their last seven games and it's hard to figure out why. They're not injured. Their competition hasn't been top notch. The Jazz are just...flat. They're having a hard time stopping anybody. Every opponent they lost to but one racked up 100+ on them, and Denver, Golden State, and Phoenix were into the teens and twenties above the century mark. The other semi-consistent factor has been at least one, if not two, of their big three of Williams, Boozer, and Okur having an off game...like single-digits off. This might be a strategy for Portland to try and exploit tonight. But considering Utah clinched the division championship and a playoff berth weeks ago and that even with this late-season slump they're all but a 50-win team, we'll probably be lucky to escape out of Salt Lake City with our heads still attached. The lion may be limping but the mouse would still have to do a whole lot of chewing to get it down.
What I'd Like To See:
Again, it's semi-futile to even try for a successful game plan from Portland's point of view. If Utah plays alert defense and concentrates on getting the ball inside to Boozer (either letting him score or having him pass out to the open guy), we lose. If Utah pulls a Seattle and lets us shoot unopposed and run a little bit and if the Jazz themselves start chucking long one-on-one, then we have a shot. It's pretty much as simple as that.
I don't know if I'm alone in this...maybe I'm just jaded or spoiled...but after watching the Blazers for 80 games already this season (and several hundred before that in prior seasons) it's hard to consider what we're watching right now "Blazer Basketball" and keep a straight face. No doubt the end of last year was worse in terms of record and probably quality of execution, but we were only missing Randolph and Miles so you really felt like you were seeing something that had a chance to be applicable somewhere in the future. Right now almost every player you see out there has a decent chance to be gone next year or fits squarely into the "If They're Playing Much For You It Means You're In Trouble" category. Magloire and Jack are examples of the first. They very well might be here but it makes it hard to get excited about their future and the great plays they're making (if any) when you don't know. Dickau, LaFrentz, and (God bless him) Schenscher are examples of the second. About the only guys who aren't clearly in one category or the other are Outlaw, Webster, and Jones. And with the first two, the truth is they could be in BOTH...we just don't know yet. And Jones is hurt. And besides that, even when one of those three does makes a spectacular play you can't help but think, "That's not going to happen in a regular game." Outlaw's barrage of jumpers is a case in point. He's hitting them and it's been nice to see, but do you think he's going to get those shots with Zach on the court, let alone Zach and Roy? It just doesn't feel like were seeing much stuff that's applicable to real life. And that makes it hard to take very seriously or to get very excited about, even when--as with Saturday's game--we win.
Nevertheless we'll still be here watching and chatting. After all, it still beats tackling that post-season "Honey-Do" list, right?