The Jazz have gone through several different phases throughout the last forty years in Utah. The first 10 years were a struggle. The team was close to being sold. Luckily the development of several key draft picks gradually helped the team start to be an annual playoff contender.
The second decade was considered The Golden One for the Jazz. The NBA All-Star game came to Salt Lake City in 1993 and John Stockton and Karl Malone were named co MVPs. Stockton became the all time career leader in steals AND assists. Karl Malone won the MVP award twice. The Jazz also won the Western Conference Finals twice in a row only to be thwarted by the greatest player ever twice.
The third decade was the gradual decline of the Stockton and Malone years followed by a very short rebuild and a trip back to the Western Conference Finals with a young, promising team. It seemed like the Jazz were going to get back to the Promised Land.
This last decade has been quite strange. Deron Williams and Jerry Sloan abruptly ended their careers in Utah after an argument. There were several years without the Jazz in the playoffs. Everything seemed wrong. Once the Jazz got a good coach in Quin Snyder they developed the team really well and made it back to the playoffs. Despite their star player leaving for greener pastures (literally the white and green Celtics) the Jazz made the playoffs again and showed a lot of promise. That tough journey back to the playoffs all began one year ago on January 26, 2018.
The Jazz were in the middle of an Eastern Conference road trip and their hope for another postseason berth didn’t look too great. Their record was 20-28. The Jazz had just come off a hard fought overtime win in Detroit and were going through customs in Canada. The Raptors were one of the best teams in the East.
Rudy Gobert had just tweeted “We will be fine.” but it didn’t look too fine. However, the Jazz rallied and won thanks to a game winning three-point shot by Ricky Rubio. This was the start of an 11 game win streak and an incredible 29-6 historic finish to end the season. The Jazz built on that with a first round playoff victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder and even stole a game in Houston in the second round.
This year, the Jazz face a similar situation. Not exactly, but similar. They are currently just one game below .500 and the schedule is about to get a lot easier. Rudy said in a recent interview that the feeling is again a lot like it was last year at this time. The Jazz know they are a good team. They just had a difficult schedule and tough time adjusting to the new freedom of movement rules. You won’t find them making excuses though. There were some inexcusable blowout losses where they looked lost and defeated. They will have to earn their way back to the postseason in one of the deepest years the Western Conference has seen.
Look for the Jazz to continue their defensive identity and for shots to eventually fall. When the Jazz are shooting well they are hard to beat. The question is whether they can continue to get open looks and knock down shots when their number is called. They will get the chance to do so tonight in Canada.