Utah Jazz: Players That Must Step Up for the Jazz Down the Stretch

Andrew WallockContributor IApril 20, 2012

Utah Jazz: Players That Must Step Up for the Jazz Down the Stretch

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    The Utah Jazz are currently holding the eighth spot in the Western Conference Playoffs, but that could change very quickly. The season is drawing to a close, and it seems Utah has found the heart and the will to push themselves into the postseason. 

    But, if they hope to be there, they will need solid contributions from a few key players on the roster. Already dominated by injuries, Utah has a depleted roster and needs help from absolutely everybody. 

Gordon Hayward

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    Gordon Hayward has been downright unstoppable for the Jazz lately, and he'll need to continue putting up big numbers for the Jazz as the postseason nears. He's now a mainstay in the Jazz starting lineup with injuries to Raja Bell and Josh Howard wounding the Utah squad.

    Hayward is a guy who plays with superb hustle and can get it done on both ends of the floor. It seems he has finally found his confidence and plays like that. Whether it be points, rebounds, assists, blocks or steals, Hayward produces all of it for Utah. 

    The Jazz are definitely in need of his production if they hope to win their last 3 games. 

Devin Harris

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    Devin Harris has finally emerged and become what the Jazz expected him to be when they shipped Deron Williams out last year. He has been as unstoppable as Gordon Hayward and provided much needed offense for a sadly depleted Jazz squad. 

    He hasn't scored less than 20 points in his last three games and is shooting lights out from the three point line. During a season when the Jazz desperately needed quality outside shooters, Harris has finally found his touch at the right time.

    He is the main reason that the Jazz are still thick in the playoff hunt, and a solid effort is needed from every night. 

Alec Burks

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    Alec Burks is the spark off the bench for the Utah Jazz this season and does not receive near as many minutes as he should. I've detailed his emergence in previous articles, and I stand by my opinion that he will one day find himself in an All-Star game. 

    Most recently, in a win against Portland, Alec Burks posted a 17 point game off the bench to go along with five assists and five rebounds. A natural slashing guard, Burks is the best hope the Jazz have off the bench at this point.

Paul Millsap

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    Jazz fans know that Al Jefferson is going to bring it every night. But, on most nights we don't know what we are going to see from potental All-Star Paul Millsap. 

    The secound-round draft pick out of Louisiana Tech has astounded NBA fans with his rise as a valuable NBA player and continues to produce night-in and night-out.

    His rebounding and hustle will be needed down the stretch, especially against the Orlando Magic as they play without big man Dwight Howard. Al and Paul should tear up their frontcourt. 

Prediction

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    Of the teams fighting for playoff spots, Utah has the most favorable schedule and is the most likely team to be there in the end.

    For one, their last three games are at home, where the Jazz have a 22-8 record. Plus, they will be playing an Orlando team with Dwight Howard, a Phoenix team that they can beat most nights, and a blown-apart Portland roster.

    Expect Utah to go 3-0 and find themselves with the eighth spot in the playoffs by the end of next week.