If you follow the Jazz you’ve probably taken a look at the Western Conference standings today. In fact, I could safely wager that you’ve looked at them every day for the past few weeks, and will continue to do so until April 11th when the NBA regular season ends. There’s also a good chance that you’ve studied the remaining schedules for each of the teams the Jazz are competing with for playoff positioning. So have I. As sports fans, sometimes we spend so much time listening to coaches and players talk about staying focused on the next game, that we trick ourselves into believing we need to stay focused on the next game as well. It’s actually perfectly fine for people who don’t play on the team to scoreboard-watch and project potential outcomes. It’s fun, and we finally get to do it again in Utah.
Friday night’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves was one that most people penciled in as a win in their personal playoff projections. The Jazz took care of business, lighting up the schedule with a bright green W. After Wednesday’s heartbreaker against the Warriors, the Jazz could have succumbed to a potential trap game. The first half of the game felt a little iffy.
Minnesota got off to a good start. They shot well early and built a little lead. The Jazz seemed to be one or two beats off at the start. However, towards the end of the second quarter the Jazz started to pick things up. The first half ended with a Rodney Hood three-point buzzer beater to put the Jazz up 51-49.
Trey Lyles was terrific in the first half filling in for Derrick Favors. He responded well yet again to the challenge of facing one of his more lauded Kentucky teammates. Lyles scored 17 points in the first half. He also played great defense on Karl-Anthony Towns when he was given the chance to defend him. Anthony Wiggins was good for Minnesota. He knocked down a couple of threes in the first half, and also made his way to the basket several times. He finished the game with 24 points.
The Jazz took control of the game in the second half. Putting to rest the possibility of one loss turning into two. They came out of the break and put on a nice run to put themselves in control. Minnesota threatened a few times in the third. They cut it to one on two different occasions, but the Jazz were able to eventually build their lead to 15, effectively putting the Timberwolves away. The Jazz played good defense in the fourth quarter, only allowing Minnesota to score 17 points in the final frame. The Jazz took the game by a score of 98-85.
Gordon Hayward was effective, going 8-15 from the floor, and hitting 5-7 free throws for 22 points. Shelvin Mack had another good all-around game with 16 points, five assists, and four rebounds. Trey Lyles filled in for Derrick Favors nicely. He finished with 18 points, five rebounds, and a block.
After one of the most dramatic games of the year on Wednesday, Friday’s game was a reminder of the reality of the 82-game schedule. Not every game is must-watch TV. But, each game counts the same in the end. The Jazz showed growth by putting Minnesota away as the game went on. They now find themselves sitting in the eighth spot, with a one game lead over Houston. The Jazz go to Phoenix on Sunday. That’s another game that won’t be sexy or grab national headlines. It’s a big game regardless. They all are at this point. If the Jazz can take care of business, they’ll go into Tuesday’s game against San Antonio on a bit of a roll, putting themselves in position to steal a game and put the heat on the teams they’re fighting with.