The Utah Jazz play the woeful Cavaliers tonight in Cleveland and they’d better get the job done.
Even in the wake of Monday night’s regrettable overtime loss to Milwaukee, Utah is 32-28 overall and certainly capable of handling the Cavs, who are 20-40 and in last place in the Eastern Conference’s Central Division. Still, the Jazz aren’t good enough to take games off, especially those on the road.
Come to think of it, the Jazz really aren’t good enough to give anything less than a full effort each time they step on the floor.
Sure, teams like the Heat, the Thunder and Spurs have enough talent to mail one in on occasion. But the Jazz?
As the kids say with their cell phones … “LOL!”
Monday’s loss to the Bucks was exactly the kind of game the Jazz can’t afford to lose and tonight’s game is no different.
Look, throughout the season I’ve used this column space to be the voice of reason concerning the Jazz. When they’ve looked unstoppable, I’ve called for caution; when they’ve looked terrible, I’ve suggested optimism. As a journalist it’s my job to cover the team, report the facts and offer analysis when it’s called for.
I’m not paid to root, so I don’t.
While I care what Jazz fans think, I’m not going to waste my time — and yours, as a reader — responding to the complaints of fans.
However, having noted that, Monday night’s game more than warrants a comment or two, particularly regarding the way coach Tyrone Corbin handled the lineup in the fourth quarter and overtime period.
If you’re a fan — or even if you’re not and you just saw the game — you’re surely aware of the fact Jazz forward Derrick Favors scored a career-high 23 points and had 17 rebounds through the first three quarters of the game. However, Corbin saw fit to keep Favors on the bench throughout the fourth quarter and overtime period.
The Jazz lost the game 109-108, dropping their fourth in five games.
With starting center Al Jefferson out of the game with an ankle injury, Corbin used a rotation of Kanter, Favors and Paul Millsap between the center and power forward position. Favors started in place of Jefferson and was effective early on, scoring 15 points and grabbing nine rebounds in the first quarter alone.
He added six more points in the third quarter but never played another minute after that.
Instead, Corbin settled on Millsap and Kanter, who combined for 15 points and 12 rebounds as the Jazz rallied in the fourth quarter. They also combined for eight points and three rebounds in overtime, but it was not enough.
Corbin, now in his third season coaching the Jazz, has often said he juggles his lineup according to feel. And to that end he told reporters Tuesday he felt comfortable going with Millsap and Kanter over the final 17 minutes Monday.
Honestly, it’s hard to argue that point because even though fans and media have their own opinions, nobody knows his team better than Corbin. Had a few things — things beyond Corbin’s control — gone differently Monday, few would be second-guessing him now.
But the Jazz lost a game they needed and now they clinging to a playoff spot. There’s still 22 games left and plenty of time for them to get caught along the way.
Because he’s the head coach, Corbin is open to criticism and that’s completely valid. It’s not unreasonable to believe he should have found just a few more minutes for Favors in the fourth quarter and/or overtime.
Had he done so, perhaps the game would’ve turned out differently.
And perhaps it wouldn’t have.
Such is life, I suppose, in the world of professional sports. Coaches are paid great sums of money to handle their players’ personalities, to manipulate their egos and to juggle the lineup accordingly each night.
Essentially, they’re paid to know their team better than we do.
Oh, but there’s just one more thing … they’re also paid to put up with finicky fans and the murmurings of the media.