There’s no sense in ruling anything out or taking anything for granted with one week left in a regular-season that hasn’t disappointed.
Let’s be honest, if we had done that earlier in the season, we could have missed the Celtics dominating the league and the Lakers disintegrating like a wafer. Perhaps the best stories are yet to be written despite how many plot lines have already taken place. There’s no denying that this is a sport in which everything is possible.
That again, it’s fair that some Jazz supporters could approach the balance of the season as if it were a late-game blowout: essentially wanting to get a head start on the automobile because things are beginning to seem all but over.
Last year’s NBA champions, the Utah Jazz, appear to be buckling under the strain of losing Kawhi Leonard in the middle of a playoff series. Only a win against the Lakers, the NBA’s most disappointing team in recent years, has kept the Utah Jazz from losing six of their previous seven games.
Concerningly, two of those losses occurred after Utah lost 20-plus point leads against the Warriors and the Clippers—a result that certainly evoked memories of last season’s postseason loss to the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Clippers.
In light of the team’s recent postseason struggles, the recent drought, and the tangible media bickering, it’s possible that the music in Utah could soon come to an end.
On The Lowe Post podcast, ESPN reporter Tim MacMahon, who has written extensively on Jazz in recent years, remarked, “It feels like an excellent chapter in Jazz history is coming to an end at the end of the first round.” They’re a one-and-done team unless they catch lightning in a bottle and all the friction on this team is resolved in the next few weeks. And if they’re one and done, I do believe there will be franchise-altering changes this summer that might involve pretty much anyone that you’d like to mention,” he said.
If the Lakers decide to part ways with Frank Vogel, NBA expert Marc Stein predicts that Quin Snyder will be mentioned as a possible replacement. Rudy Gobert’s potential suitors, according to him, would be the Mavericks and Raptors, should the Jazz decide to deal the three-time Defensive Player of the Year. When it comes to small-market star Donovan Mitchell, he’s always linked to other teams and will continue to be unless he indicates an interest in staying in Utah.
There are, however, a plethora of issues in Salt Lake City. Forward Rudy Gay has been benched the last two games, a sign that he isn’t getting the results Utah hoped for after he was brought in as a small-ball center to provide the team more options against playoff teams who can fire at will from outside. (Daniel House and Juancho Hernangomez, please come forward!) Despite a team’s deliberate focus on protecting the rim with Gobert, the defense continues to be particularly vulnerable on the perimeter. Keeping leads in place has been a problem, both during the skid and regularly. According to Radar360, Utah has lost six games in which it had a 15-point lead or more. It’s just the Knicks that have had more defeats.
This is especially true in games that are decided in the latter stages when momentum can be won or lost. The team’s offense is also one of the most efficient in the league. His 41.4 percent true shooting percentage in clutch situations ranks him 33rd out of the 34 players who have taken at least 50 attempts in those situations this year. Aside from Mitchell in those game-changing moments, only five other players — Joel Embiid, Nikola Joki, LeBron James, DeMar DeRozan, and Kevin Durant — were touted as MVP possibilities during the season.
Despite a decent 46–32 record, the Jazz has been unable to handle the sting of a serious opponent. According to Radar360, they’ve only won four games in which they trailed by 10 points or more. As their opponents launch massive comebacks, they haven’t been able to staunch the bleeding for the past few weeks.
After a tough regular season, the issue now is whether the Jazz can right the ship and make one more effort to save their franchise.