While the Jazz began the season in uncertainty, they finish it with great promise. Tonight's game showcased that promise as Coach Corbin unexpectedly altered his starting lineup to insert rising star Derrick Favors, finally giving prime minutes to the team’s acclaimed big lineup featuring Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors, and Al Jefferson. Playing for more than 37 minutes, Favors finished the game with 16 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks, and two steals. While Favors may be at the center of the hope felt by many Jazz fans, the continued development of Enes Kanter, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, DeMarre Carroll, and Jeremy Evans also provides great reason for optimism.
DeMarre Carroll, in particular, provided a bright spot for the Jazz in tonight’s loss. Demonstrating incredible hustle and fight, Carroll finished with six points, five rebounds, and a steal. After going scoreless in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter and allowing a 15-0 San Antonio scoring run, the Jazz looked to be finished for the season. Carroll’s energy sparked an 8-0 Jazz scoring run which cut San Antonio’s lead to four points within the game’s final minute. While the run wasn’t sufficient to secure a victory, the Jazz proved their toughness and determination.
Such effort did not go unnoticed by Spurs’ coach Greg Popovich.
“I would assume everybody knows it by now, but the Utah Jazz showed you the kind of class and the kind of organization they are,” remarked Popovich following the game. “Down 3-0, and I think we were up 17 … and they just ran it right at us and stuck it to us, because they don’t quit. They’re just a class team, class organization …. It’s just who they are and they showed it again tonight.”
Despite fighting hard for most of the game, the Jazz fell short in many of the same categories that have hurt them throughout the series. The team finished the night with a meager 34 points in the paint and shot only 36.4% from the field. Even worse, the normally productive Jazz bench contributed only 10 points in tonight’s defeat. In familiar fashion, the Jazz also struggled from the three-point line, shooting 0-for-13. The Jazz also struggled to make free-throws, shooting only 65% from the line.
Frustrated by the sweep, the Jazz now look for ways to progress. They hope to build on the momentum of a season which defied expectation and developed character.
“We set the goal to get to the playoffs, now it’s time to set a new goal to make a run in the playoffs and I think this team right here could do it,” commented Al Jefferson.
In addition to great promise, the unexpected success encountered by the Utah Jazz this season brings with it new elements of uncertainty. The organization now faces the challenge of filling in the missing pieces while retaining its core group of rising stars. Already, expectations for next season are elevated. Fans and pundits alike are expecting the team to translate the lessons of this up-and-down year into a more consistently competitive franchise and a deeper run in next season's playoffs. It’s a lot to think about for a young team and a young coaching staff. After tonight’s loss, they will have plenty of time to figure it out.