The media has been quick to hype up the Lakers’ playoff hopes (especially with Kobe out of the picture), but rarely will you find an op-ed about how good the Jazz are. It’s a shame really that such an interesting squad has to remain nuzzled in the relative obscurity of Salt Lake City. They kept their playoff hopes alive Monday night by defeating the Minnesota Timberwolves 96-80 in a game that showcased just how deep their squad is.
Utah’s offense begins with Al Jefferson, one of the most underappreciated low-post players in the game. It’s hard to really freak out on Jefferson without watching him every night, but his mastery of the restricted area is unparalleled in today’s NBA. Big Al led his team with 22 points (and 8 rebounds) and was aided by Mo Williams (15 points), Randy Foye (14) and Derrick Favors (14 off the bench). Even Jamal Tinsley* pitched in with 2 points off the bench.
What’s really interesting about this team is that two different generations are keeping its playoff dreams afloat. Favors and Enes Kenter (11/8 and 7/4 point/rebound slashes on incredibly efficient play) are clearly the future as Jefferson and Milsap both get phased out to make way for the younger, more exciting (and cheaper) bigs. But regardless of where the future stands, all four bigs are doing great work. Factor in sharpshooters like Williams and Gordon Haywood (averaging 14.3 points per game. Seriously.) and this team is a solid penetrating wing away from being a monster. If they make the playoffs, they won’t be an easy out.
The other important story from Monday night came courtesy of Steph Curry and his warriors. There isn’t a better scoring point guard in basketball right now then Curry (sorry, Russell and Kyrie), and his talents were on full display Monday, dropping 35 points. Klay Thompson also chipped in with 23, and, needless to say, we can’t wait to see what Golden State does come playoff time. That roster is just littered with nasty players who can go off at will.
* — Fun fact: Tinsley is averaging 4.5 assists per game off the bench. And here we were, surprised that he was still on an NBA roster.