The Jazz looked dead after a dispiriting road loss to Dallas two Sundays ago, and it’s tempting to write them off again after their defense no-showed (or, alternatively, showed up in its usual form) last night against a very enthusiastic Denver team missing its best player. But it’s too early to declare the Jazz dead. The most sophisticated playoff odds predictors have them somewhere between a 50/50 shot and 35/65 underdog to overtake the Lakers for the no. 8 spot.
The Jazz look to be settling in as a solid bottom-four playoff seed in the Western Conference, though with Golden State off to a surprising 17-8 start, making the playoffs at all is no guarantee for the incumbent No. 8 seed. Utah is 14-12 after an exciting road win last night in Brooklyn. Before the game, head coach Tyrone Corbin huddled up for an extended one-on-one with Grantland about Utah’s rotation, its two big impending free agents, his computer-science degree, and lots of other stuff. Below, an edited transcript of our chat.
I love the big lineup, with Paul Millsap at small forward, if only because it’s different from what most teams do. We haven’t seen it since [Derrick] Favors’s foot issues started popping up. Are you going to bring it back?
Yeah, we’ll have it in the bag when the time presents itself. We’ve gotta make sure the matchups are correct. At some point, though, we’d like to use it to force our will on other teams.
To Watch the Best Division in Basketball ...
As someone who — from the time he learned to talk to when he moved away from home — consistently referred to every single place outside of Philadelphia as "down there," be it "down" the Jersey Shore, "down" Lima, Peru, or "down" Boston, Massachusetts, I am totally down with the fact that the Northwest Division features only one team in the actual Northwestern part of the United States.
It's the best division in basketball, the only one in the NBA that four teams with winning records (Oklahoma City, Denver, Utah, Portland) call home. Hell, even its basement dweller, the Timberwolves, is the most entertaining 3-7 team that I can recall. The Thunder are clearly the class of the division (if not the Western Conference), but don't expect the rest of the Northwest to fade any time soon.