SALT LAKE CITY — Looking at the Utah Jazz since the new year, it’s obvious the bike needs a jump start. If nothing else an oil change and maybe some fresh fluids to go along with it. In fact, while you’re at it, go ahead and check the cables, tire tread, and battery life too.
Of course, I’m not talking about any long-term fixes here. There will be a time and place for all that to come this summer. Rather a temporary tune-up designed to spark some life in the immediate as another playoff run soon begins.
Though if there is a silver lining, you don’t need a new engine. It’s clear who that is. That’s if Donovan Mitchell isn’t already overcome with emotional exhaustion from dealing with all the drama of losing basketball games. Utah ended the regular season dropping seven of their last 11, not to mention suffering one of the worst stretches in franchise history back in January.
To be rosy, the Jazz really isn’t that far removed from the team with the best record in all of basketball. That 2021 group certainly poo-pooed in the playoffs, but just what if the narrative flipped this go-around?
I can read the headline now: "5 Seed in the West Shocks Phoenix to Win to Game 7 and Advance Into Western Conference Finals."
Sub-header? "Avenging Second Round Shocker From Year Before."
I know, I know — let’s not get ahead of ourselves. You have to take care of Dallas before you can even start entertaining the Suns. Whatever Luka Doncic’s status may be, the Jazz needs to prove they can start winning on the road. Game 1 Saturday should tell us a lot about whether the Jazz has learned anything from their recent mishaps.
But ponder the what-ifs with me for a second. Let’s just say they dispose of the Mavs rather quickly, maybe in five games. That brings on the mighty Suns — a team that has been scorched-Earth all season long with a franchise-record 64 wins. Even more impressive is the fact they finished 32-9 away from home. Then again, the Jazz has faced Phoenix twice over the last month-and-a-half, winning in the desert back in February; and then last week in Salt Lake City, leading by 17 in the fourth quarter.
Of course, Jazz fans know all about what happened next; but again, right now we're talking about a good ol’ fashioned tune-up, right?
Quin Snyder, a head coach with much to prove, has spent the last week getting his guys rested, healthy, and dialed in. Beating Dallas first. And then if you can somehow pull a Houdini act in Round 2, who knows. What everyone expected to see last season, may just happen this time instead.