The question is simple: Will the Utah Jazz make the playoffs?
The answer they've been giving for weeks now is equally uncomplicated.
"They playoffs started a month ago," center Al Jefferson said recently.
Big Al is right, of course. As they have chased the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference bracket, the Jazz have been playing game after game with a playoff intensity.
Going into tonight's regular season finale in Memphis, Utah must win to keep its postseason hopes alive. In addition, the Jazz must hope the Los Angeles Lakers drop their home game with Houston.
If both those things happen, the Jazz will make their second consecutive postseason appearance.
However, if both the Jazz and Lakers win, that spot will belong to L.A.
Pretty exciting stuff, huh?
"This is fun," Jazz point guard Mo Williams said earlier this month. "Playing for something every night, that's the fun part about it."
Yep, fun ... exciting ... exhilarating ... invigorating.
Here we are, the final day of the regular season and the Jazz find themselves in a very intense, very exciting, very precarious position. At this point, I'd say it's better to be a Jazz player -- or fan, for that matter -- than, say, someone associated with the brutally-awful Orland Magic or Phoenix Suns. Those teams had their playoff hopes dashed months ago.
For the past six weeks or so, the Jazz have gone into each game with something to play for. Each time they've stepped on the floor they had something on the line.
Other teams can't say that. Fans in places like Orlando, Phoenix, Sacramento, Charlotte, Detroit and Cleveland have watched their teams slog through the second half of season.
And yet, there's just no way I'm ready to give the Utah franchise a pat on the head and a handful of candy, as longtime coach Jerry Sloan used to say.
I'll give the Jazz a thumbs-up for getting this far; I'll congratulate them on winning nine of 11 going into tonight's game. I'll even tell them thanks for making the last few weeks so interesting.
But a high-five for a job well done? Nope.
Win or lose tonight, the Jazz underachieved this season. They did not meet expectations; did not take a step forward.
Even if everything falls into place and they advance to the postseason, I'd still say this season is a disappointment, if only because the Jazz could have been better.
Perhaps if Mo Williams hadn't missed 32 games with a thumb injury or newcomer Marvin Williams had been a more effective offensive weapon or the "core four" youngsters had been more consistent, things might've been different.
But every season comes with ifs and buts, right?
Let's face it, if winning nine of their last 11 with the playoffs on the line has been as thrilling and life-affirming as a zip line ride through the Costa Rican jungle, the manner in which the Jazz dropped nine of 11 in March was as frustrating as dropping your keys down a storm drain.
Short of making the playoffs and somehow going on an unfathomable run to the finals, the Jazz will look back on that woeful stretch last month and shake their heads in disgust -- or at least they should.
There has been talk that perhaps tonight's game is ripe for the picking because the playoff-bound Grizzlies may or may not have anything to play for. But then again, the Knicks had essentially surrendered before their visit to EnergySolutions Arena on March 18, and it still didn't help.
Depleted by injury and worn out from a long road trip, New York received an emotional transfusion from the bungling Jazz and wound up winning the game 90-83.
That game, combined with narrow road losses at Milwaukee and Cleveland two weeks earlier, still haunt the 2012-13 season. Shoot, even Utah's 45-point home loss to Houston on Jan. 28 wasn't as devastating.
Will the Jazz make the playoffs? Maybe, maybe not.
If they do, good for them. But no matter how exciting the last month of the regular season has been, they could have -- should have -- played better in the dog days of March.