Utah Jazz: Fight for the Playoffs Week 3

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Entering the 3rd week of the Fight for the playoff series has the Portland Trailblazers out of the running, and the Utah Jazz clinging to the 8th seed.  The race is still tight, with Utah one win ahead of the LA Lakers.  Dallas has dropped off some though, and are now further back from 8th.  Meanwhile, Golden State and Houston are still fighting for not only a guaranteed spot in the playoffs, but for the 6th seed.  This week should sharpen the playoff picture even further.

Golden State:  The Warriors play 3 of their 5 remaining games this week.  They have one of the tougher finishes of any of these teams, this week facing the Timberwolves, OKC, and the LA Lakers.  OKC will no doubt test them to the limit, the Timberwolves have a good squad despite being out of the playoff picture, and the star-studded cast LA has doesn’t want to miss the playoffs.  A slip here could see them looking at the 7th seed, which would bring them a first round date with OKC, which they’ll want to avoid.

Last week:  2-1.  the Jazz did rise to the occasion, beating them at home with a game that was closer than the 97-90 scoreboard would suggest.

Prediction: 2-1.  OKC is just too good, and LA too desperate for one of them to not walk away with a win, but probably not both.

Houston:  The Rockets control their destiny this week, with a 3 game home stand against Phoenix, Memphis, and Sacramento visiting.  Memphis will definitely be a challenge, and Sacramento has been playing the role of spoiler well lately.  The Rockets should be up to the challenge though, and if they can beat Memphis, they may well go 3-0 this week, putting them in prime position to surpass the Warriors as the 6th seed.

Last week:  3-1.  My prediction was  right on the money with their only lost to Denver at the end of the week.

Prediction: 2-1.  Either Memphis does what it should or someone plays spoiler.  Still 3-0 is all up to Houston and not out of the question.

Utah Jazz:  The Jazz have just 4 games left, 2 this week and 2 next.  Rest is always good, but the Jazz need to remain focused with tough challenges ahead.  They Face OKC Tuesday, and Minnesota Friday.  Both are home games–always a plus for the Jazz.  If they can find a way to beat OKC, and don’t falter against the Timberwolves, the Jazz should at least be leading the pack and hold on to the 8th and final playoff berth.

Last Week: 3-1  As predicted Denver, who’s been incredibly tough all season but especially of late, thumped on the Jazz.  Other than that though, they beat their opponents by 7 points or more (an average win margin of nearly 10).

Prediction: 1-1.  As a Jazz fan I hate predicting a loss, but with OKC coming to town the Jazz will be hard pressed to pull out a win.  Even if they do, the Timberwolves are no pushovers either and will give the Jazz a run for their money.  If the Jazz can pull out a 2-0, LA is in serious trouble if they hope to make the playoffs.

LA Lakers:  This week starts out fairly kind to the Lakers, with a visit from the Hornets, but gets progressively harder.  They take to the road facing Portland before coming back home to face the Warriors and the Spurs.  As the only team with 4 games this week, and only one game to play after this week, this week is really the last chance for the Lakers to take control of their fate.

Last week- 2-1.  The Lakers showed more mettle than I predicted, though Memphis still gave them a tough challenge and the Clippers stomped them.

Prediction:  2-2  The Warriors and the Spurs have proven themselves better teams over the course of the season. Enough said.

Dallas:  A 20 point loss to the Lakers really hurt Dallas last week, as well as losing a 1 point game to Denver. Phoenix and Denver visit this week, and then the Mavs head to New Orleans to take on the Hornets.  It’s do or die for the Mavs, but with two of the 3 games they play against the bottom of the west, and considering they gave Denver a run for their money last week, you have to consider them still in the hunt.

Last week: 2-2.  That loss in Denver may come back to haunt them, especially if they can’t rectify it this week.

Prediction: 2-1.  I can’t seem to state enough how well Denver has played against the teams in this group.  If Dallas pulls out a 3-0, the 8th seed talk gets interesting.

Portland:  Officially out. Enough said.

With the race this tight, I’ll update this post throughout the week so stay tuned in.

Update 4/10/13:

Golden State thumped on the Timberwolves 105-89 to secure a playoff berth Tuesday night.  Now the only question is where they’ll land in the playoff picture.  I don’t see them falling any further than possibly 7th depending on how the Rockets do.  Meanwhile the Rockets maintained pressure on Goldenstate with a win of their own 101-98 against Phoenix securing a spot themselves.

As for the Utah Jazz, they fell to the Thunder 90-80, opening the door for the LA Lakers.  LA capitalized beating the Hornets to secure the 8th and final spot.  Things aren’t over yet though, as this was the Jazz most likely loss over their remaining games while it was LA’s most likely win.  The Lakers will still have to win more of their remaining games than the Jazz to beat them out for the playoffs(2 of 3 for the Jazz would force LA to when 3 of 4.)  The Lakers play Portland tonight, and will need a win to keep their playoff hopes strong.  In the meantime Dallas plays Phoenix with hopes of keeping pressure on the teams ahead of them in the playoff race, which now only has one slot remaining. Updates on those games tomorrow.

Update 4/11/13

Dallas’ playoff hopes ended with a surprising loss to the Suns last night.  Now the 8th and final spot is a battle between the LA Lakers and the Utah Jazz.  The Lakers helped their case with a win over the Portland trail blazers last night.  Then again, it took great games from the 4 all-stars they brought together to do it, with Kobe getting 47 points and 4 blocks so that they could beat a non-playoff team by 7 points.  Call me crazy, but I don’t think Kobe will be able to provide that kind of production against the Warriors and Spurs(whose defense has been impeccable since Tim Duncan donned a Spurs uniform), and LA would need that to beat both of them.  This isn’t the time to panic Jazz fans, as I believe the Lakers just won the two games they should have of their last 4, and if they drop the next two as predicted, Utah makes the playoffs.

Tonight the Warriors take on the Thunder, which may be the deciding factor as to whether they hold onto the 6th seed and avoid playing either OKC or the Spurs in the first round.  Beat OKC and they avoid either, lose and they’ll probably face the Spurs whom the Thunder have chased down for the top seed on a tie breraker.  Even if they keep the 6th seed, facing the Nuggets isn’t much better. In fact, personally I’d rather take on a aged and injured, but poised as ever Spurs team than a Nuggets team full of in their prime ‘almost-allstars’.  But with the race as tight as it is in the west, who knows?

Update 4/12/13

A relatively quiet night in the NBA with just two games played.  Melo and the Knicks saw their streak end to the bulls, and Golden State got pounded by OKC  116-97.   Golden State’s loss makes things really interesting heading into tonight’s games.  Golden State is now just one win ahead of the Rockets for the 6th seed, and both play tonight, with the Rockets facing the grizzles and the Warriors taking on LA.  If history has anything to say, the Rockets destroyed the Grizzles at home and the Lakers destroyed the Warriors last time they face them at home.  Will these match-ups be more of the same or will vengeance be served?

The Jazz also play tonight, taking on the Twolves at home.   With all these teams’ fates intertwined, the playoff picture may very well be decided tonight.  A win for the Jazz and a loss for the Lakers puts Utah in the drivers seat to finish in 8th.   A loss for Golden State(meaning a win for LA) and a win from the Rockets, puts the Rockets in 6th place.  That puts pressure on Utah, who with a loss and an LA win would need to win their remaining two games and get the gift of LA losses to get in.  As long as Utah wins, it’s still in good position even if LA manages a win, though they’ll still be facing a tall order with their last games on the road against the Twolves and Grizzles.  More updates tomorrow as this all shakes out.

Update 4/13/13

Major blows came last night in the games played.  The Jazz stayed in the hunt for 8th place with a 107-100 win against the Twolves.  Houston fell to the Grizzles, allowing Golden State to keep the 6th seed despite their loss to the LA Lakers 118-116.  The biggest loss of the night though was to the Lakers, who watched Kobe Bryant tear his Achilles(not official, but even Kobe believes that’s what it is).  As much as I want to see the Jazz make the playoffs, and the Lakers are my least favorite team, it’s a shame to see an athlete go down like that.  With the injury though, I really don’t see LA making a push over their last two games, a Texas two step of the Spurs and Rockets.  No one else on the team(except Nash, who always gives 110%) seemed to have the fire needed to get them to the playoffs and beyond.  Maybe this lights a fire under them. The Jazz themselves have a tall order with road games at Minnesota and Memphis to finish out the season.  Luckily Memphis really doesn’t have anything to play for which may work in the Jazz favor.  None of these teams play tomorrow but so next week’s article will begin right away on Monday.

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