Who will guard Russell Westbrook if the Jazz play the Thunder? Who will score inside against Z-Bo and Gasol if the Jazz play the Grizzlies? And should Gordon Hayward really “Fear the Beard” if he has to lead his young squad against James Harden and the Houston Rockets? These are the questions Jazz fans want answers to as we get one month closer to April.
If the Jazz play the Rockets:
They would likely not have home court advantage as Houston owns a decent four and a half game lead with 23 games left to play. The Rockets would be a 3 seed and the Jazz would have to fall to the six seed. The only way the Jazz could fall this bad is if they got a serious injury bug. It’s not like that hasn’t happened to the Jazz before. The Jazz have bolstered their roster with proven vets to avoid this but if Hayward, Gobert and Hill got injured then it’s possible that Utah could slip harder than Mario on a banana peel.
The best way for the Jazz to stop the Coach D’Antoni quick offense is to counteract it with slow-mo Jazz defense. This means not letting James Harden stir the pot with his flailing flops as he dashes to the lane. Stay between the Beard and the basket and play tight on the Houston three point snipers. The last thing the Jazz need against this hot shooting team is to allow 12 straight three pointers to start a game like they did last night against Oklahoma City. This will be one of the tougher matchups for the Jazz out of the possible first round matchups.
If they play OKC: They basically have to stop the best pound for pound athlete to ever play in the NBA. Russell “Triple Double” Westbrook is on pace to be the first player to average a triple double for a season since Oscar Robertson, a name only a grandpa remembers watching play.
The Thunder did pick up Dougie McBuckets and Taj Gibson from Chicago before the trade deadline but these guys are far from forming a new “Big 3” with Westbrook. Taj will fire the team up in the playoffs as he did in Chicago and McDermott will be compared moreso to a poor man’s Splash Brother than the old 90s “Doug” cartoon. Nevertheless this looks like the easiest matchup for the Jazz to win on paper even if it comes against a guy who could win MVP.
If the Jazz play the Clippers: This is easy. Just play Hack-a-Deandre in the fourth quarter. You’ll win the game and the fans will win free Chik-Fil-A due to DJ’s ineptitude from the charity stripe. The Jazz won’t actually find this matchup easy if everyone on Lob City is healthy but Chris Paul this year has proven to be hobbled. This is the second most favorable matchup for the Jazz even if the Clippers do get favorable calls from the refs due to their excessive whining.
If the Jazz play the Grizzlies: They better get tough and get tough fast. A former defensive player of the year award in Marc Gasol and a bad wolf with a sheep’s clothing nickname like Z-Bo could offset the dominance that Rudy Gobert has been in the paint this season. It is yet to see whether Favors can be the stud in the inside that he was projected to be for the Jazz for so many years.
The Jazz will need to be healthy and play at a higher level and then they can beat Memphis in probably 7 games. The Jazz outmatch the Grizzlies more on the wing play but they will get bruised in this bully ball style of play unless they hit back. Several guys on this Memphis squad upset the Spurs several years ago as an 8 seed. They beat this championship caliber team in 6 games. The playoffs are a different animal so the young Jazz better find out quickly how to perform like the Jazz Bear and less like a teddy bear. Targeting Z-Bo’s bald head with silly string might be a good start.