What are you doing tonight Jazz fan? Whatever it is, you need to be watching tonight’s game. If there is only one game you watch all season (playoffs notwithstanding) this is the game to watch. Not because it has some high-caliber all-star appeal (although Steve Nash will be in town). Not because it is a late start nationally-televised game (TNT at 8:30 local time). But because this one game will likely determine if the Jazz get to play past Thursday or whether they will spend this weekend clearing out their lockers for another summer.
Sure, when this season started for the team back on December 27, not one person who writes or cheers for the Jazz thought this team would sniff the playoffs. I mean, after the miserable (let’s not call it a) tank job to fun out the 2010-2011 season after Jerry Sloan retired and Deron Williams was traded, who would have expected the Jazz to win even 15 games this year? Many predicted them to be worse than the Hornets in the West (yes, the same team that traded their superstar to the Clippers.) I don’t think anyone outside of GM Kevin O’Connor and head coach Ty Corbin really, legitimately thought they could compete this season.
The first week was brutal, but then January came and the team settled into a solid rotation and played A LOT of home games and got some much needed confidence. They played for each other and played hard every night. They were in games they had no business being in; they even won some (Memphis, LA Clippers, and Denver). They went 11-4 and earned a right to feel “included” among the top half of the NBA crop. February was a brutal kick in the pants for the team, but they never quit, despite only winning 4 of 15 contests, although 3 of those wins were against the Lakers, Grizzlies, and Rockets. March marked a resurgence for the team and it continued into April as the team started to smell what the playoffs might be like. Players like Big Al Jefferson started realizing that this might be a chance for his first playoff appearance.
But Phoenix has remained the lone team this season that the Jazz have faced more than once and not beaten (they lost the lone games against Toronto, New York, Indiana, Chicago, Atlanta, and Boston – and in every game they had chances to get a win.) Phoenix is the Kryptonite to this year’s Jazz team. Steve Nash put his team on his shoulders in the final minute of the last game and got the win in Salt Lake that really made this a race between these two teams for this last spot in the playoffs. Since the last game on April 4, the Jazz are 6-3 and the Suns are 5-5. The Jazz need a win tonight and they secure the 8th seed. If they lose, they will move back into a tie with the Suns who hold the tiebreaker. Each team will have one game remaining and both teams will be at home. Phoenix will host San Antonio on Wednesday who just clinched home court in the West and will probably sit their Big 3. Portland will be looking to be a spoiler on Thursday for the Jazz. If Utah loses tonight and Phoenix wins tomorrow, Thursday night might be the one game this year you will want to miss.
So loyal Jazz fan, I ask you again: what are you doing tonight? Whatever it is, it had better include listening to or watching this Jazz game and sending your positive vibes to the team on the floor because this game is truly Playoffs of Bust.