Win or Go Home

The Jazz have already clinched a Northwest division title and 50 wins. But how will a team that hasn’t had home court advantage in the first round since 2001 overcome the veterans on the Los Angeles Clippers?

The Jazz have gone through a series of droughts. They haven’t won their division since 2008. They haven’t won a playoff game since 2010. They haven’t made the playoffs since they were swept by the Spurs 5 years ago. These droughts have made the Jazz thirsty for wins like the ones they had in the 90s.

When reporters asked Rudy Gobert what pitch he’d make to Gordon Hayward to re-sign with the Jazz, Rudy said he would ask Gordon if he wants to win a championship. The Jazz have steadily improved and now wouldn’t be a good time for Hayward to leave as the Jazz are starting to improve. Deron Williams tried to head to the greener pastures of Brooklyn but was nowhere near the player he was in Utah.

The Jazz don’t need home court advantage to win a playoff series despite having an overwhelming advantage with the noise of Vivint Smart Home Arena.  Four of their last 5 playoff series they’ve won have all been against teams who had the home court advantage. The Jazz just need to play tough on the road at a Staples Center that lauds the purple and gold Lakers far more than the “Lob City” Clippers.

Another key to a victory will be Gordon Hayward. G-Time shot a whopping 18% from the field in 2012 and it proved to be a difference maker in all four disappointing games against the Spurs. Now with a bigger, faster and stronger body (and a significantly better haircut) Gordon will have the confidence necessary to use his All-Star game to defeat a team of former All-Stars.

Rudy Gobert will be tested by the physicality of Deandre Jordan so he will need to be tough against a player who may have a chip on his shoulder. There was plenty of chirping about how Rudy Gobert deserved to be on the All-Star team instead of DJ. Rudy is also one of the top 3 contenders for Defensive Player of the Year so all Clippers will try to Lob alley-oops over Gobert’s 7 foot 9 inch wingspan.

The main keys to clinching a first round series and earning another date with Golden State are:

  1. Maintain their top NBA defense status. Tough shooting night? No problem. Hard defense creates easy offense. Causing turnovers will lead to easy fast break points
  2. Play your top guys no matter what. Stubbed toes matter in the regular season but this is the playoffs. Unless a major bone is broken then they need to be men.
  3. Do the little things. Now isn’t the time to miss free throws, throw careless passes out of bounds or worry what your stat line looks like. Get loose balls, intimidate the Clippers and have a confident mentality.
  4. Take advantage of mismatches. The most obvious one is Gordon Hayward vs…. Mbah A Moute. His name may be hard to pronounce but he won’t be hard for Hayward to handle. On the other end Paul and Griffin are significantly better than Favors and Hill. The Jazz will need Rudy And Rodney to win the upper hand on their even matchups of Deandre Jordan and JJ Redick. They will also need solid bench play to outperform a bench with a perennial sixth man of the year candidate in Jamal Crawford.

The drought has been washed away. In a year where no University in the Beehive State made the NCAA tournament, it’s time to get loud and be proud of the Renaissance of Jazz basketball. As Rudy Gobert would say in his thick French accent, “Criticism is just a form of encouragement.” If the Jazz take this criticism seriously they will get out of the first round. Book it.

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