This archived article was written by: Tai Justice
On Monday, April 11, the Utah Jazz played their biggest game in six years. They were at home playing the Dallas Mavericks for a chance to make the playoffs. The Jazz controlled their own destiny. Win in their final two games and they would make the playoffs for the first time in four years. The Jazz were keeping the game close and then the ghosts of the Jazz past came back.
Deron Williams and Wesley Matthews hit big shot after big shot. Matthews hit some ARE YOU KIDING ME?? shots to stop every Jazz run. Rudy Gobert rolled his ankle in the first quarter and didn’t return. With Derrick Favors already limited with right knee soreness, the Jazz defense dropped off. The Mavericks ended up beating the Jazz 101-92. The game was the Jazz season in a nutshell: missed open shots and injuries happening at the worst time.
Unlike the Houston Rockets, the team the Jazz are fighting with for the last playoff spot, making the Playoffs was not essential for the Jazz this year. They have been limited by injuries and are still a young team. We should have a bright future. The Rockets have put everything into this season and their future is in the air. Even if the Rockets make the playoffs, it’ll be a short four-game series against the Golden State Warriors. For the Rockets, getting swept by the Warriors does nothing. For the Jazz, it would’ve meant four-ABC/ESPN games, experience going forward for a young team.
The Jazz had their chances this season. At home vs. a Clippers team that sat all its starters, it was a throw away game for the them. For Jazz fans, it finally looked like we’d caught a break. The Rockets lost the night before and everyone in the arena was ready to celebrate finally making the playoffs again. The Jazz lost by three in overtime. They blew a seven-point lead with 2:30 left in the game. The Jazz still controlling their own destiny going into Monday night, they lost again.
The Jazz aren’t an embarrassment, they aren’t a joke. They aren’t the Cleveland Browns or Sacramento Kings. They’re a respectful organization that does things in a respectable way. Jazz fans haven’t endured dysfunctional ownership or incompetent management. The Jazz are a stable organization.
We’ve endured struggles, but for the most part, we’ve always been competitive. The Jazz have terrible luck.
Having a great team during the time Michael Jordan was dominating, losing game seven to the Rockets when Jordan was playing baseball, Jordan push off, Tim Donaghy, Derrick Fisher, Spurs and Lakers beating us in the playoffs, our best player and coach hating each other, injuries, the list goes on and on and on for two decades.
After a while, you become used to breaks going against you. I was at both the Clippers and Mavericks’ game and as soon as a play or two went wrong, the crowd went quiet. We sat on our hands as the Jazz started making a comeback because we know something bad is going to happen and if it doesn’t, we are pleasantly surprised. Falling short this year isn’t an embarrassment, just the reality of not getting to taste postseason basketball, which would develop this young and talented roster at a faster pace. Maybe this young core can learn from this experience.
These last two home losses weren’t June 14, 1998, in game six. It’s not a game seven loss to the Lakers in 1988. It’s not the game seven loss to the Sonics in 1996. It’s just another mark on the prison wall as we await the day we can finally rejoice.