The Utah Jazz now find themselves in a 0-3 hole versus the Golden State Warriors, a situation which no team has ever been able to overcome. But if the Utah Jazz have shown anything this year, it’s been a refusal to die.
After an incredibly exhilarating first round against the Los Angeles Clippers, Utah Jazz fans were hungry for more great basketball in the second round against the Golden State Warriors. After all, this match up has been one people have been anxious to see as the Jazz and Warriors have had some great battles in Salt Lake City the past couple years.
The Jazz beat the Warriors at home in the final stretch of the 2014-15 season, the year the Warriors won the championship. The Jazz nearly beat the Warriors twice at home in the 2015-16 season, falling in heartbreaking fashion in the final seconds of regulation on November 30, 2015, and in overtime on March 30, 2016. For much of last season, the Jazz were poised to play the Warriors as the eighth seed in an ultimate David VS Goliath match up as the Jazz were up and comers and Golden State was the greatest regular season team of all time.
The Warriors, as we know, had some glaring weaknesses exposed in last year’s postseason. The size, length, and agile feet of the Oklahoma City Thunder bigs put the Warriors in a 1-3 series deficit. They were nearly knocked out of the Conference Finals! However, they were able to put together three wins in a row to advance to the NBA Finals by the skin of their teeth.
In the Finals against the Cavaliers, the Dubs jumped out to a 3-1 series lead, Draymond Green got suspended for Game 5, and as the old folks say, the rest is history. The Cavaliers rallied and went on to win Games 5, 6 and 7 led by LeBron James’ heroic play. Again it was the size that exposed Golden State’s weakness.
The Jazz were then anointed as the Golden State “kryptonite”. Justin Rowan poised the Jazz as “the biggest threat” to dethrone the Warriors. Throughout the 2016-17 regular season there was (and still is) a huge debate on whether Draymond Green or Rudy Gobert is the Defensive Player of the Year, and the Jazz and Warriors continue to clash with their style of old school basketball versus a modern day three point barrage style of basketball.
After many months of waiting for this Jazz-Warriors series to come to fruition, it hasn’t been all that great of a series. The Warriors owned the Jazz in Game 1, and although the Jazz put up a good fight in Games 2 and 3, they still have either been mostly trailing or tied up this series (Game 3 was the first time the Jazz led, following a corner three made from Rodney Hood with 1:01 left in the first half).
Now heading into Game 4, the Jazz are staring elimination right in the face. NBA teams that go down 0-3 in a seven game series have gone 0-123. Game 4 is all but certain death for the Utah Jazz. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as our managing editor Ryan Aston pointed out:
"Say what you will about what’s going on currently, but I’ll stand by the idea that any reasonable Jazz fan would’ve been thrilled with these scenarios at the beginning of the year. Even if the team had remained completely healthy."
However, counting the Jazz out now would be foolish. Despite the fact that the Jazz trail 0-3, they are still getting into a rhythm against a new team. After all, Golden State had eight days in between series to rest and scout the Jazz. And Utah is still not fully healthy, as George Hill missed Games 2 and 3 with his lingering toe injury flaring up.
As they have all year, I expect the Jazz to embrace the next man up mentality, and have everybody on the roster prepared to play their best in Game 4, from Gordon Hayward to Joel Bolomboy. The Jazz have had so many injuries to key guys this season, when news breaks that someone is out for a game, fans don’t even blink at this point. And neither do the Jazz.
Quin Snyder and company have grown so accustomed to adjusting on the fly, that we as fans have come to expect no less of them if they aren’t at full strength. Similar to how they approached Game 7 against the Clippers, the Jazz need to carry, as Quin Snyder calls it, a “quiet confidence” heading into a do or die Game 4.
Joe Ingles had this to say heading into Game 7 against the Clippers, and I think the same mantra applies to Game 4 against the Warriors:
"We don’t have a choice, really. It’s Game 7. We win or we go home. There’s no ifs or buts or blaming anyone. We’ve been together all year. We’ve been through some tough stuff. This is another step in that. We can go home and mope and sit around and complain about it (losing Game 6) or we can get ready. It’s done now. Obviously we’d love to be sitting here getting ready for the next series, but we’re not. We’ll leave everything out there on Sunday.”"
So am I saying that the Jazz are going to storm out and win the next four games and the series? No, I don’t think that will happen. While it would be nearly impossible for the Jazz to accomplish that task, I still believe they have a shot at stealing a game or two, and making this a competitive series rather than easy pickings for the likely Western Conference Champs that we call the Warriors.
Expect the Jazz to lay it all out there on the court Monday night, and even if it is their last game of the season they can look forward to making next year even better than this year. It was estimated that the Utah Jazz lost a league-leading nine games to injury this past regular season, and if you add nine wins to their 51 win season, it would have been a 60 win season, which screams contender in my mind.
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If there is one thing we have learned from this Jazz season, it’s that they can have every reason to mail it in, but they never do, always giving their best shot. A special team like this should be fun to watch both tomorrow night and in the coming season. Enjoy this team Jazz fans, they are truly special!