For Jazz, Any More After Four?

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

The Utah Jazz have just four regular season games left. The question on everybody's minds is, will they play after that? Each of their main rivals, the Portland Trail Blazers and the Denver Nuggets, have five games, and both have one game tonight. Probably nothing will be clinched until the last game of the regular season; until then, we can all watch with clenched teeth.

Denver has what is ostensibly the easiest game tonight, facing the Suns in Phoenix. The Blazers, coming off a terrific win over the Lakers, face a mediocre-at-best Golden State Warriors team at home. Both of those should result in victories for Utah's rivals, meaning all three teams will have an identical 41-37 record after tonight. That means Denver is in the playoffs, as the Nuggets own tiebreakers against both other teams.

The four last games will determine everything. Will the Jazz continue their streak of making the playoffs? Will they ruin Portland's streak? Will Carmelo lead yet another team to the promised land in his first year?

Among the competition to the Jazz, the Portland-Denver game on Saturday will probably decide who poses the final challenge to Utah. The winner of that game will have the best chance of being Utah's biggest rival for the eighth spot, as the other team would drop a full game behind the winner.

Of course, Utah has to win. And given that it's playing the red-hot Dallas Mavericks tomorrow, the backed-into-a-corner Houston Rockets on Saturday, and the ever-motivated Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday, their final regular season game against the Phoenix Suns next Wednesday may be of no consequence. Fortunately, their rivals are in similar predicaments: Portland faces the Lakers and the Spurs twice, and Denver faces the Kings, the Spurs, and the Rockets.

There is one way that two teams can make it into the playoffs. If Utah and Denver cooperate to topple the Rockets when they see them, and the Rockets somehow lose to the Clippers tonight and maybe Seattle on Monday or Dallas next Wednesday, this could be yet another year that the Rockets don't make the playoffs. In that case, it would be down to these three teams to fight for the two remaining spots.

It's a longshot. The Jazz have to concentrate one game at a time. They need to beat the Mavericks tomorrow. How can they do it? By playing like a playoff-calibre team. Dallas rolls over lottery-bound teams or struggling contenders, but if Utah outhustles, outrebounds, and outdefends them, and makes it a physical game instead of a finesse one, they stand a small sliver of a chance.

The Jazz will head back out on the road and will have a tough task when they face Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks tomorrow, Thursday, April 8th. This game will take place at 6:30 PM CST and can be seen on KJZZ as well as on NBA League Pass.

The Utah Jazz announced on Monday a freeze on the 2004-05 ticket pricingthat offers 2003-04 prices for season ticket renewals and new purchases. In addition, a new price structure will be offered in 1,200 lower bowl seats located behind the basket.

Matt Harpring
(knee) andCurtis Borchardt(wrist) are on the injured list. Borchardt has been cleared to practice and Harpring's recovery apparently has been going smoothly.


Tom McEachin ofThe Ogden Standard-Examiner writes: From Dantley and Griffith, to Stockton and Malone, to Kirilenko and Co., the one common thread woven through Jazz history the past 21 years has been winning.Utah's victory over Memphis on Monday was the 41st of the season, assuring the Jazz will finish .500 or better for the 21st consecutive season -- the longest streak in NBA history... With four games remaining, the Jazz will also be looking to extend an even more important streak: making the playoffs. The Jazz have made the postseason the past 20 years, and only the Portland Trail Blazers have a longer streak at 21 straight. For the Jazz to make it into the postseason, they would beat out Portland for the final spot, meaning if they got in, they would also end to the Trail Blazers' streak. a

Kurt Kragthorpe ofThe Salt Lake Tribune writes: Sports psychologists say one reason athletes fail is they are unwilling to live up to everything that comes with succeeding. In Mike Weir's case, making that 7-foot putt on the 18th hole and ultimately winning a playoff in the 2003 Masters brought him great responsibility: planning the menu for Tuesday's Champions Dinner at Augusta National Golf Club... Utah club professionals and other golf enthusiasts weighed in on the subject of what they would have served if they were Weir... Greg Ostertag, Jazz center: "Catfish and fried okra. I'm from Texas."