Biggest X-Factors for Utah Jazz's Playoff Success
A bad team at home was just what the doctor ordered.
After a disastrous 0-4 road trip, the Jazz returned to the friendly confines of Energy Solutions Arena and downed the Detroit Pistons 103-90 last night. The win is just the second in Utah's previous nine games, and it couldn't have come at a better time.
The combination of Utah's free fall and the meteoric rise of the Los Angeles Lakers vaulted L.A. ahead of the Jazz into the eighth and final playoff spot. After Monday night's win, Utah and the Lakers have identical records, with Utah laying claim to the tiebreaker.
Utah's No. 1 focus right now is simply making the playoffs. For them, this is far from a guarantee. Adversity will have to be overcome, and underachieving by any player simply can no longer be tolerated.
Though everyone's best effort will be expected by Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin, certain Jazz players, both veterans and youngsters, are critical to the playoff success of the Utah Jazz.
It's been a roller-coaster season for Alec Burks.
After registering plenty of DNPs early on, Burks has not only worked his way into the rotation, but proved himself to be an integral piece of Utah's present and future success.
Burks is arguably Utah's best perimeter defender, and possesses athleticism no other Jazz guard can touch, except for new Jazz man Travis Leslie. His ability to get to the dish and to finish after contact is as invaluable to Utah as it is rare.
Burks has stepped up and logged significant minutes at the point guard position, a definite departure from Burks' comfort zone. While the positives Burks presents while playing point outweigh the negatives, Burks still has bad habits that need correcting.
Burks could open up Utah's offense if he focused more on distributing the ball and getting teammates open shots as opposed to running through the first few options of a set and then trying to create on his own. He has unshakable confidence, which is great for the most part, but occasionally leads to Burks forcing a drive into heavy traffic.
It's good to have Mo back.
Mo returned to the lineup recently after missing well over a month with a thumb injury. His return didn't help Utah's fortunes at first.
Yesterday's victory over Detroit was the first since Mo returned, and it was also the first time Mo scored double digits since his return. At times, the offense still seemed to sputter and lack fluidity while Williams was running the show. It's clear everyone needs to reacclimate themselves to Mo's style of point guard play, a marked departure from the games of Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson.
To be successful in the playoffs, Williams needs to wear two hats. He needs to be the primary distributor and facilitator of the Utah offense, and he needs to score points, as Utah's offense has been pretty anemic without him.
There are shooting slumps, and then there are Randy Foye's last nine games.
Foye is in the midst of a super slump, hitting only 17 of his last 59 field-goal attempts for an abysmal 28 percent. While Foye has other skills aside from a silky-smooth jumper, he's an absolute sieve on defense. Foye's lack of defense has been well defined, and makes it difficult for Ty Corbin to play him extended minutes.
Foye's missing offense is painfully noticeable on the offensive end. Utah comes up empty on far too many possessions where Foye lets a wide open three fly and misses. Long rebounds can start fast breaks, but defenders are usually back in time to disrupt the other play in time.
The act of shooting threes isn't bad. Foye's play of recent, however, is very bad. Utah needs Foye's offensive output to dramatically increase to have any chance of being successful.
If you would've told me prior to yesterday's game that Jeremy Evans would log more minutes then either Derrick Favors or Enes Kanter and there was no injury involved, I would've told you to put down the cough syrup.
Yet, in a surprising move, Coach Corbin decided to slide Alec Burks to first backup point guard, not play Earl Watson and give his minutes to Jeremy Evans. The former Western Kentucky Hilltopper made the most of his opportunity.
Evans scored eight points on 3-of-4 shooting, grabbed seven rebounds and threw in four assists and two blocks for good measure. Stunningly, Favors and Kanter watched the last few minutes of a game not completely out of hand from the bench while Evans finished the game alongside frontcourt Jazz veteran Al Jefferson.
In an already-crowded backcourt, what does Evans' production mean? For starters, it means additional roster flexibility for coach Corbin. It also gives Utah insurance in the event Jefferson has any lingering injury issues or if Millsap is out for longer than expected.
If Evans can maintain this level of efficiency, he will have the potential to make a huge impact on both the team and the playoff race.