Not again, really? Utah blew it. Utah blew it big time. Its going to take alot of praying to get Utah out of the First round of the Playoffs…….again.
A year after Utah lost 7 of 9 to finish 8th in the West Utah had another opportunity to secure homecourt in at least the first round of the Playoffs, and they crumbled under the pressure….again.
On the final game of the 2009-2010 season Utah hosted Phoenix, on the second night of a back to back, and Utah was the team that looked tired and unmotivated. Utah went down by 10 early and never could get close again. Phoenix came into the game knowing they needed the win, just like Utah, but they actually played like it, and Phoenix took the 3 seed from the Jazz, on their homecourt.
Well, what’s done is done and now Utah has to forget about their late season struggles and get focused on Denver, who they play tonight in Denver in game 1 of their Playoff matchup @ 10:30 EST.
I planned on writing in my Blog the many reasons why Utah has this series in the bag and why they have a great chance to move to the next round, but things have changed, and I don’t know if I can lie to you like that. Right to your face…….blatant lies…….can’t do it.
First of all, we have to talk about injuries, because Utah is dealing with some big ones right now that can definitely make or break this series depending on which direction Utah’s injured players go. Andrei Kirilenko has come out and said that he plans to return for game one of the series, but now that’s come into question as well. AK has missed 15 of the past 17 games due to a strained calf and yesterday on ESPN radio Mike Tirico said that Ak might not be ready for game 1. In addition its being reported by the Deseret News that AK reinjured the calf in practice Thursday and will miss two more weeks.
Thats bad folks. AK-47 is a huge reason for the teams success this year, he’s in better shape, motivated, and just seems to be playing refreshed, like he loves basketball again. It could be argued that Utah wouldn’t have been near as good this year without AK, and I agree with that. Kirilenko is incredibly important for Utah’s defensive efficiency as well as ball movement on offense, AK is definitely an underrated passer and doesn’t get near enough credit.
So who guards Melo? I didn’t expect Ak to shut Melo down, but he’s good enough and long enough defensively to make things difficult for Carmelo, which is all you want to do against players like that. You can’t hope to stop guys like Kobe, Melo, Lebron and Durant, you can only hope to slow them down and make things as difficult as possible. AK can do that against Melo.
Now, its looking like Rookie Wesley Matthews will draw the defensive assignment on Melo. As good as the Rookie has been this season, especially defensively, this is the Playoffs and we’re talking about Carmelo Anthony here. This is defintely the matchup to watch in the game, it will be interesting to see if Matthews can have any success against the scoring machine.
Not likely, but if Utah wants to even think about advancing Matthews has to play out of his mind.
If that’s not enough, starting Center Mehmet Okur and PF Carlos Boozer are both questionable for game 1. Mehmet has said publicly that he will most likely play, somehow I don’t feel reassured because we have heard that before from Okur. He’s not exactly known as a tough guy.
Heck, speaking of toughness, Carlos Boozer is the Paper Mache’ Power Forward of the NBA. That’s been the biggest knock on the All star since he’s been in Utah, is his durability and toughness. Boozer has done a decent job this season of staying on the court, but that’s only because he’s a Free Agent at the end of the year, and he’s playing for a contract.
This is actually a good thing for Utah, because I think Boozer will play tonight, and I think he will play well. Nothing is more important to Boozer than money, and he’s got alot on the line at the end of the season and if he’s able to stay on the court and put a good series together that will go along way in proving to the league that he’s worth a big contract.
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world” Is what Boozer told the Salt Lake Tribune after practice Thursday.
Utah really needs Boozer to go off. I think he will.
Despite the odds, everything going against Utah, the injuries, losing home court……despite all that I think they can do it. Denver has some problems themselves, this isn’t going to be an easy series for them either.
Coach George Karl is undergoing Cancer treatment and will miss the entire series against Utah. Coach Karl has missed Denvers last few games and its shown on the court. Nothing against former Jazz assisstant and Denver Asst Coach Adrian Dantley, but this team is not responding to you as well as you would like.
You can see it on the defensive end big time, no accountability for their assignments, no accountability to the coach. This wasn’t more apparent then on April 10th at home against San Antonio, Denver got straight man-handled in this game, losing 104-85. One of the most potent offenses in the league led by scoring Phenom Carmelo Anthony, held to 85 points.
Denver scored fewer than 85 points one other time this season, on January 29 against the Thunder, one of the best defenses in the league. Thats huge. Denver is not playing good basketball right now. Kenyon Martin is just coming back from his knee injury and he is clearly not confident in his pogo sticks because he is not flying around the lane like he usually does. Denvers already weak defense relies on K Marts athleticism in the lan eand ability to alter shots, without him Denver is likely to get abused by Utahs inside game.
So Denver might have home court, but don’t be suprised if Utah comes out with a chip on their shoulder and steal this first game to reclaim home court advantage for themselves. Far-fetched you think? Chauncey Billups is too good to allow that to happen.
I don’t think so. I’ve made my claim that Deron Williams is a top 5 player in the NBA and I fully expect him to put those skills on display in front of a National television audience against what’s widely considered one of the best defensive Points Guards in the game in Chauncey Billups.
There are mismatches all over the court in this one, on both sides, and that usually makes for a great series. Expect fireworks.
Prediction: Utah will come out throwing bows and will win big on Denvers floor tonight. Every game thereafter will be close, decided by 5 points or less. Utah Wins in 7 games
Danny Shapiro is the NBA Director of Content for Prosportsblogging.com. He lives in Salt Lake City Utah and has followed the Jazz for over 10 years. He’s a diehard Lakers fan and isn’t afraid to tell everyone how much better Kobe is than Lebron. You can also follow Danny on Twitter at DanShap@twitter.com or Facebook under Danny Shapiro. Also, Danny is a competitive Fantasy Sports Manager and loves to answer Fantasy Sports questions. If you would like to reach Danny with your questions you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author
Written by Danny Shapiro
Danny Shapiro is 26 years old, married and a father to 2 boys, who he hopes one day to play MLB and support him and his wife in their old age. Danny's second love, mistress even, is sports and Danny is living his dream of being a sports writer right now, thanks to Prosportsblogging.com.