Now’s the time for the Utah Jazz to put up or shut up in the West

The Utah Jazz have been on an absolute tear as of late, completely dismantling every NBA team in their path. And while the victories have been piling up and the team has risen in the Western Conference standings, it’s time to prove they belong.

Okay, so the headline might read a bit aggressive, but 1) you clicked on it and 2) it’s true.

If the Utah Jazz are truly an elite team, we’ll soon know it.

If this year’s unit wants to be mentioned alongside the likes of the Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers as a legitimate contender for an NBA title, the next 10 games will be their chance to make it happen.

As of late, things have really gone the Jazz’s way. Jordan Clarkson arrived and quickly made himself the savior of the Jazz’s second unit. Donovan Mitchell can’t help but put the ball in the basket. Rudy Gobert could keep Sherwin-Williams from penetrating the paint. And to top it all off, Mike Conley’s returned from his hamstring injury with a level of comfort we didn’t expect.

Oh! And one one more thing …

In case you haven’t heard, the Jazz have won 18 of their last 20 games.

An impressive feat, it’s made all the more imposing by the fact that the Jazz have won those 18 games by an average of 13.7 points. Incredibly enough, the last three wins (with Conley coming off the bench, mind you) have come with an average margin of victory of 28.3 points — a jaw-dropping accomplishment.

Better yet, thanks to their winning ways, the Jazz now find themselves in sole possession of the second seed in the Western Conference — only 4.5 games behind LeBron James and the Lakers.

There is one molehill for the adamant naysayer to stand on, though …

During that 20-game stretch, the Jazz didn’t exactly go up against the league’s finest. In fact, Utah squared off against only three teams with winning records: the Clippers, Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers, the last of which were understandably pummeled, having beaten the Nuggets in Denver (at altitude) the night prior.

Now before you go jumping down my throat in my mentions, I get it — all the Jazz can do is beat the teams on their schedule. Good teams beat bad teams; great teams beat bad teams consistently and without mercy — during the past 20 games, the Jazz have done both.

It’s the next 10 games, however, that will determine if #TakeNote Nation should continue their impassioned cry for more “national recognition” or lower their volume a bit while taking shelter in some dusty, remote corner of Twitter — probably next to Utes football fans, in all honesty.

Don’t believe me on this one?

See for yourself, Jazz peeps:

Here’s a brief, but accurate breakdown of what your eyes have just beheld:

  • Eight of the Jazz’s next 10 games are against current NBA playoff teams.
  • Of those eight, seven of them are Western Conference foes — the games matter.
  • The Jazz will play the Nuggets, Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks two times each.
  • Both non-playoff team games are against Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers.
  • And the lone Eastern Conference team? The Heat — the second-best team out East.

Pretty rough stuff, huh?

Hands down, this will be the Jazz’s toughest 10-game stretch of the year. But beyond that, it will be the Jazz’s most important 10-game stretch of the year, as well.

Think about it — at the end of the 2018-2019 season, only two games separated the fifth-seed Jazz and the eighth-seed Clippers. It takes one two-week period of poor performances to land the Jazz an unfavorable first-round matchup.

I’ll say it again — louder this time so everybody in the Salt Lake Valley can hear me …

Now’s the time for the Jazz to put up or shut up!

You have my word — if the Jazz are able to limit themselves to three or fewer losses over the course of the next two-and-a-half weeks of play, there will be plenty of (national) chatter surrounding Utah as a formidable (and terrifying) threat to claim the NBA crown.

Next: Utah Jazz: 3 things to monitor as schedule becomes more difficult

Here’s to hoping the Jazz let out a blood-curdling scream when many expect them to cross their arms, bow their heads, keep quiet (think Sunbeams in tank tops) and step aside out of reverence for the league’s “big-market boys.”

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