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10 Keys for the Utah Jazz Down the Stretch

Matt JonesAnalyst IOctober 20, 2016

10 Keys for the Utah Jazz Down the Stretch

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    The Utah Jazz have seven games left in the regular season and must do 10 things to make sure that they finish strong. 

    The Jazz currently sit one game out of the Western Conference playoffs in the ninth position with three of their upcoming games against teams ahead of them in the playoff race.

    Over the next few games the team must finish strong if the Jazz are going to catch up to any of the top eight teams and sneak into the NBA playoffs. 

Push for the Playoffs

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    After two consecutive victories over teams ahead of them in the standings, the Utah Jazz are in a good position to get to the playoffs. 

    At the point of the season where teams are often accused of tanking to get a better position in the draft instead of getting a low playoff spot, the Jazz must live for the moment and continue to push to get into the playoffs. 

    This is a team that will always compete and would never lose games on purpose no matter what it might mean.

    Even if the team winds up with a tough first-round exit, it signifies a huge improvement from a year ago and shows that this team is definitely headed in the right direction with a bright future.

Young Guys Must Step Up

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    The Utah Jazz have played all season with a mix of veteran players and first- and second-year players who have progressed ahead of schedule. 

    In the last several games this year, the young players need to continue to contribute and give the team the same level of energy and performance that they have all season long. 

    Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks must continue to raise their games and play solid minutes for the Jazz, especially with the injury problems the team currently has. 

    Each of them playing well is key to the success of the team down the stretch and for seasons to come.

Manage Injuries

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    Although it is nowhere near the level that occurred last season, injuries have started to stack up for the Utah Jazz. 

    Five players, including several veterans, missed the most recent game against the Houston Rockets causing the other players on the team to step up and fill in the gaps. 

    The Jazz must continue to do well to manage missing players due to injuries as they are not likely to get back some of their key veterans before the end of the regular season. 

Play Defense

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    The Utah Jazz learned this season that the way that they win basketball games is by playing strong defense. 

    Once this team was able to implement head coach Tyrone Corbin's emphasis on defense, it paid dividends for the team.

    The Jazz can not afford to get away from the tough defense they have shown over the last month and must rely on it to help them finish down the stretch. 

Rely on the Veterans

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    As important as it is for the young players to step up, the team has got to rely on the veterans to carry them over the next seven games and into the playoffs. 

    With some key veterans sidelined with injury, the success that the team has during the rest of the season hinges on the play of Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Devin Harris.

    Harris has done well to play better over the last several games and Jefferson and Millsap have been consistent for most of the season. 

    It is now time for this trio to show that they are the leaders of the team and be the go-to players down the stretch to make the playoffs.

Point Guard Play

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    After enduring criticism for much of the season and supposedly being on the trading block earlier this year, Devin Harris is putting together some strong performances and is leading the team well. 

    In the absence of usual backup Earl Watson, who is injured, Harris and fellow veteran guard Jamaal Tinsley must continue to play well at the point guard position. 

    The Jazz are a better team when Harris does well to not only knock down the open shot, but to facilitate the offense and set up his open teammates. 

    Additionally, this is the time of year that the Jazz brought Tinsley in to play. His experience and leadership will be an asset to the team.

Consistency

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    At this point of the season any win is a good win for the Utah Jazz. 

    A big game from any player on any given night will go a long way towards a victory but the team must guard against relying too heavily on a different guy to step up each night. 

    In order to win consistently, the starters have to continue to play well. Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Gordon Hayward all must be consistent down the stretch and can not suffer even a small let down. 

    The Jazz can not afford an off night from these or any other players. The team has got to come out focused on each game and needs consistency from everyone on the team.

Trust the Young Guys

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    Although it is up to the veteran players to perform well each night, the first- and second-year players must also do their part to add to the team's success.

    Gordon Hayward is coming off of a great scoring night against the Houston Rockets and would do a lot to ease the pressure of his teammates if he were to repeat that performance. 

    Derrick Favors, Alec Burks and Enes Kanter must also continue to play in the roles they have been in all season for the team to be competitive and position themselves in the eighth spot. 

    Head coach Tyrone Corbin and the other players on the team must continue to trust that these young players will do what is asked of them as they have done for the majority of the season. 

Take It One Game at a Time

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    One of the biggest cliches in all of sports is also one of the most important for the Utah Jazz to live by. 

    The team does not have many games left on the schedule and can not afford to overlook a single one of them. 

    With only three games against two teams behind them in the standings, the Jazz have their work cut out for them. 

    In addition to playing in New Orleans and against the Portland Trail Blazers twice, they will face the Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks, Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns.

    Having already lost to the Hornets this season, none of these will he an easy game for the Jazz.

    The team has to be very careful not to look past any team as every game is important in the playoff standings that change every night. 

Stick to the Game Plan

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    Utah Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin and his staff are not about to make major changes to the team for the last seven games of the regular season. 

    As any good coach would, Corbin will continue to make needed adjustments, but he will stick to the things that have put the team in the playoff hunt. 

    While Corbin will stay consistent, the team must also stick to the game plan and not have any individual player try to do too much to win. 

    If any one player tries unsuccessfully to take on too much of a role, it could mean a longer offseason for the team. 

    The Utah Jazz need to simply stick to the game plan they have used for success this season and they have a good chance of playing in the postseason. 

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