Idle Jazz Cling to Eighth Spot But Face Spurs Tonight

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

With Portland's victory over the Sixers last night, the Jazz find themselves with the exact same record as the Blazers, and each only half a game ahead of the Denver Nuggets, but the Jazz are clinging to the secondary tie-breaker with Portland of having a better conference record. Hence, the Jazz are just barely in the eighth spot right now. Let's hope they don't have to face any tough opponents in these last few days of the regular season. Who's up tonight? Oh, the defending world champion San Antonio Spurs.

A team the Jazz have lost to 16 straight times dating back to February 6, 2000, and one of only two teams the Jazz haven't beaten this year. The other team the Jazz haven't beaten, by the way, is Indiana. But let's forget about Indiana. Let's, in fact, forget about the Eastern conference, since all lucky-seven of Utah's remaining games are against the Western Conference. You know what that means, don't you?

That's right: the Jazz might lose their tiebreaker with Portland. The first tiebreaker is the season series between the two clubs, but because Utah and Portland split the season 2-2, the decision goes to a secondary tiebreaker, which is the conference record. Currently, Utah is 22-23 against Western opponents. Portland is 20-26. If Utah loses enough games, they will give away their tiebreaker.

But the good news is that if they lose so many games, it won't matter, because that'll mean either Portland or Denver has taken their spot. Yes, you read that right. That's thegoodnews.

Tonight's matchup is also unfortunate in that it is not against a club that has clinched everything it needs and is just coasting to the playoffs. The Spurs are playing with a ferocity as they are just 1.5 games behind Minnesota for a division title, and just 2 games behind Sacramento and the Lakers for the top seed in the West.

The Spurs are playing for position. The Jazz are playing for survival. Who will win?

The Spurs. Oh well.

The Jazz host the Spurs tonight at 7:00pm. The game will be broadcast locally on KJZZ and nationally on NBA League Pass. It will also be broadcast on the radio at KFNX-AM 1320.

You can get an autograph from the Jazz dancers every Friday and Saturday night on the main concourse. Want to get even closer? You can tryout to BE a dancer. Tryouts for the 2004-05 NuSkin Jazz Dancers will be held on Saturday, July 31, 2004 at the Zions Bank Basketball Center in Salt Lake City.

Tonight's game giveaway features reversible bucket hats. This is the first, last, and only time the Jazz will give those away, so get your ticketsand come get your gift.

Matt Harpring
(knee) andCurtis Borchardt(wrist) are on the injured list, though Borchardt has just been cleared to practice.


Tim Buckley ofThe Deseret Morning News writes: Jazz big man Curtis Borchardt has been cleared for "full-court, full-speed," practice, trainer Gary Briggs said Thursday. But it won't be until next week at the earliest, Briggs added, that Borchardt will be ready to return from the complicated wrist fracture that has helped limit him to just 16 games this season. Once Borchardt receives clearance from his own surgeon, Briggs said, "then we have a decision to make." That decision centers on whether to put Borchardt on the active roster, a move which would require moving one currently healthy player onto the injured list. Big man Michael Ruffin, who has not played in two of Utah's three games, is believed to be one candidate. Another possibility: Sticking with Ruffin until the Jazz either clinch, or fail to secure, a playoff spot. Jazz executive Kevin O'Connor, however, said no decision in that regard will be made until Borchardt actually is cleared to play.

Tim Buckley ofThe Deseret Morning News writes: The day was the sixth. The month was February. The year, 2000. Tim Duncan scored a game-high 32, but the Jazz won anyway.Sixteen straight times since, San Antonio has had Utah's number. Sixteen straight times since, the Spurs have beaten the Jazz. As San Antonio goes for No. 17 in a row tonight at the Delta Center, those who have been kicked time and time again vow history will not get in the way of the task at hand. "I believe we can beat anybody," Jazz All-Star forward Andrei Kirilenko said. "When I step on the floor, I don't care how many times they've beat us.

Tom McEachin ofThe Ogden Standard-Examiner writes: [Mikki] Moore, who was already waived twice this season, once by New Orleans and once by the Jazz, before returning to Utah last month, will have another familiar opponent tonight against the San Antonio Spurs: He was in their training camp two years ago. Moore was cut before the season, but he benefitted from battling Tim Duncan in practice."We went at each other a couple of times, and that's a real good friend of mine," Moore said. "I always enjoyed playing against Tim, even if it was just pickup games, because I can learn from it."

Tom McEachin ofThe Ogden Standard-Examiner writes: Sloan said one fourth-quarter play in particular summed up the problem.Lopez was trying to start a fast break that should have been a chance for an easy layup, but he tried to get fancy with a behind-the-back pass that flew out of bounds. "The behind-the-back pass was not one of the most favorite passes you'd like to see in a situation like that," Sloan said. "But I guess that's more entertaining than if he had thrown it the conventional way and laid it in the guy's hand and let him make a layup." That style of play, trying to be spectacular and a fundamental play works just fine, can mean trouble against a team like the Spurs. Sloan noted how much the Jazz struggled executing their offense last Sunday against the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Spurs play even better defense.