Home » News
Home » News

Kragthorpe: As Jazz get back to work, topping Clippers will be tough

Published February 24, 2017 10:05 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Jazz advanced in the NBA's Western Conference standings without doing anything Thursday. The Jazz (35-22) will resume their schedule after the All-Star break in a tie for fourth place in the West, thanks to the Los Angeles Clippers' loss at Golden State.

They logically won't stay in the top four. The imbalance of their home/road schedule, contrasted with the Clippers' more favorable split (and the return of guard Chris Paul), will make finishing fourth very difficult. But it's worth the effort, anyway. Here's what the Jazz have to do in the remaining 25 games, beginning Friday night at Milwaukee:

Beat the Clippers twice

Even if they sweep the remaining home-and-home set vs. the Clippers, the Jazz will have a tough time finishing ahead of them. Of each team's other 23 games, the Jazz have 14 on the road and nine at home; the Clippers have 14 at home and nine on the road.

But if the Jazz are No. 5 and meet the No. 4 Clippers in a playoff series, they need to have done something to establish some belief against that team. The Clippers pounded them 88-72 at Vivint Smart Home Arena on Feb. 13 after leading by 29 points. The Jazz host them again March 13.

There's an argument that the Jazz would be better off falling to No. 6 (behind Memphis) and opposing No. 3 Houston in the first round, but such a dropoff wouldn't inspire much confidence in them.

Establish consistency at point guard

The Jazz reportedly inquired about bringing back Deron Williams from Dallas before Thursday's trade deadline. Now that their roster apparently is set for the stretch run, they need George Hill to stay healthy and Dante Exum to assert himself as the backup point guard.

Those two combined for 31 points and some strong defense in a win over Portland before the All-Star break.

Win all 10 home games

That's asking a lot, considering the Jazz are merely 20-11 at home this season. That's roughly the success rate of a .500 team, not a 35-22 club. The Jazz have one last push in hopes of becoming a dominant home team. Again, that would build some momentum toward the playoffs, regardless of whether the Jazz have home-court advantage in the first round.

Define the rotation

As I said at the 40-game mark when the Jazz temporarily were at full strength, coach Quin Snyder's job becomes more difficult. Rodney Hood will return to the lineup at Milwaukee, so Snyder must calculate how many players to use — and how to use them. That's going to be tricky.

Impress Gordon Hayward

Looking ahead to the summer, the Jazz have to worry about how Boston did nothing in the trade market that would keep the Celtics from making a big push for Hayward. I'll say it right now: If Hayward opts out of his contract and rejoins Brad Stevens, his former college coach, that would be forgivable, especially if the Celtics prove this spring that they are strong contenders in the East.

So the pressure is on Snyder and Hayward's teammates (and Hayward himself) to keep showing that there's hope for the Jazz in the West in the near future. Yes, the Jazz can pay Hayward more money than another team could, but he wants an opportunity to win.


Twitter: @tribkurt






Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
comments powered by Disqus