How the Utah Jazz Can Make a Final Playoff Push

Andy HuSenior Writer IIMarch 18, 2013

How the Utah Jazz Can Make a Final Playoff Push

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    The Utah Jazz, who have been in the playoff mix for most of the regular season, are now on the outside looking in.

    A recent four-game losing streak, which coincided with a Los Angeles Lakers' resurgence, pushed them down to the ninth spot in the Western Conference.

    However, all is not lost yet and the Jazz could still make a run for a playoff spot. They are only two games behind the Lakers in the win column, and anything could happen at this time of year.

    This slideshow will list the areas that the team must improve upon if they want a chance to make the playoffs.

Defend Better

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    The Jazz obviously haven't been one of the better defensive teams this season. According to Hollinger's Team Statistics, they are only 20th in the league in defensive efficiency, giving up over 104 points per 100 possessions.

    In four of the last seven games, the Jazz allowed their opponents to register an offensive rating over 104, including a staggering 123.9 in a blowout loss against the New York Knicks (per Basketball Reference).

    Obviously defense isn't their strong suit, but to say that they are struggling to defend is an understatement in the past couple of games. 

    The team possesses some good individual defenders like DeMarre Carroll, Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks but they haven't been able to get it done collectively.

    Although tinkering with the lineup isn't the best idea—especially since the playoffs are approaching fast—they might need to consider moving some players around in order to get better results on defense.

Crash the Glass

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    In the last nine games, the Jazz have only outrebounded their opponents twice. 

    Rebounding is a huge factor in being a successful team, but this is something the Jazz have been uncharacteristically struggling with recently. 

    According to Team Rankings, the Jazz are ranked 12th in the league in total rebounds per game for the season, but they're ranked 23rd in the league in total rebounds for the past three games.

    Although we've seen dominant rebounding performances during this stretch, such as Enes Kanter's monster 22-rebound performance against the Charlotte Bobcats on March 1, the team hasn't been rebounding well for the most part.

    It's surprising that the team has been struggling in this area, considering that they have one of the highest quality frontcourts in the league. Perhaps it's just the motivation and unusual lineups that have been hurting them.

    Almost every Western Conference playoff contender is a good rebounding team, so the Jazz must be able to keep up in order to have a shot at securing a playoff berth.

Best Players Must Step Up

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    Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson could be considered the two best players on the team, but neither of them are capable of recording monster performances that catch the eye of the audience.

    They are consistent and get their numbers every game, but they have had their fair share of inconsistencies in the recent stretch.

    In order for the Jazz to make the playoffs and have a chance at contending further, Millsap and Jefferson must grasp by the team by the throat and lead it.

    Hayward has been the team's most consistent contributor, but he's not the type of player who can impose his will on the other team. Kanter and Derrick Favors have both registered quality performances, but neither of them can keep up a high level of play for an extended period of time yet.

    It all comes down to Millsap and Jefferson. They must perform well in order for the Jazz to make a last-ditch playoff run.