Skip to main content

Jazz Could be More Than Playoff Contenders

The Utah Jazz could be bound for greater heights than anyone could have predicted.
  • Author:
  • Publish date:

The Utah Jazz defeated the Portland Trail Blazers, 118-113, to reclaim the No. 1 seeding in the Western Conference standings. This victory proves the Jazz are a legitimate playoff team and are not currently interested in the NBA play-in game. 

The Jazz are committed to winning basketball games while honoring the rich history of the greatest small-market team in NBA history. The Blazers entered this contest as the top-ranked team in the Western Conference, played on their home court, and had a full complement of healthy players. 

The early-season thriller possessed the ingredients of playoff-style fever that has become a common occurrence for the Jazz. The Blazers held a 13-point first-half lead, only to witness the Jazz jump ahead by 19 points in the second half. 

The Blazers reclaimed a fourth-quarter lead before melting away and falling prey to the Jazz in the clutch. Let's break down why the Jazz might be morphing into more than just a playoff-caliber team. 

The Blazers were fully aware of the early season hype with regard to the Jazz and held the most advantages in terms of winning this contest. This game came down to who wanted it more as the Blazers lost All-World guard Damian Lillard in the second half, and the Jazz lost starting point guard Mike Conley, both to in-game injuries.

The Jazz were the grittier team, and down the stretch of the fourth quarter, simply outplayed the Blazers. The current best team in the West prevailed victorious in this game.

The Blazers entered the game as the top seed in the West with a homecourt advantage. Not only did Portland lose this nail-biter, but this game probably instilled doubt in the Blazers about meeting Utah in the playoffs.

The Blazers sported an entire complement of players with six double-digit scorers led by Anfernee Simons 23 points, eight boards, seven assists, four steals, and a block. The Jazz had a trio of double-digit scorers. The loss dropped the Blazers' record to 10-6, and they now sit at No. 4 in the Western Conference.

Malik Beasley's stellar play has been a treat to behold. He threw in 29 points on 10-of-18 shooting, while making six three-pointers. We may want to start calling him 'Threesley,' as he has been on absolute fire. 

Who knows what executive Danny Ainge has in mind, but the Jazz should offer a long-term contract to Beasley ASAP. Keeping players like Beasley out of free agency is the new game in town by re-signing them prior to testing the market. At 25 years old, the Jazz will be hard-pressed to find a replacement of his caliber.

Jerami Grant was the Blazers' main offseason acquisition and had been playing excellent basketball. But he was clearly overshadowed by Lauri Markkanen, looked timid and unsure, and seemed to melt under heightened intensity. 

Markkanen was coming in on a back-to-back, and more than held his own against Grant. Grant should hit the film room and analyze Markkanen.

What it All Means

The Jazz have reclaimed top ranking in the Western Conference. If this continues, we will not be talking about the playoff-bound Jazz but instead, the championship-contending Jazz.

Coach Will Hardy and his team continue to operate under the one-day-at-a-time mentality, which is paying dividends. The Jazz's overall team production has the NBA world on tilt and they're the talk across the league.

Winning cures just about everything, and the Jazz are doing just that.

Follow Inside The Jazz on Facebook and Twitter.