Thursday, April 9, 2009

The New Two-Face; Why So Serious?

Touring Act

Anyone care to try to figure out the Utah Jazz? The immovable force at home; the illegitimate stepchild on the road. I recall saying some weeks ago, either in this blogspace or elsewhere online, that something about this team isn't quite impressing me. Rare as it is that I am right, I think I should relish this one for a bit. 32-7 at home; 15-24 on the road. And it's hardly attributable to the early-season, injury-laden struggles; they've been thrown for just as many road loses lately as they have all year.

Last night of course was no exception. How does a team that boasts supposed tough guys like Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsap get so outrageously man-handled on the boards and in the paint? How does a Jerry Sloan-coached team allow Mavericks to trapse in, out, and all around the paint literally for 48 minutes? Without a hard foul or anything? It seemed like Jason Kidd and J.J. Barea were playing tag-team on Deron Williams, taking turns carving him up endless with picks-&-rolls. It was like watching -- the Suns verses Dallas on Sunday. If you're a Jazz fan, it should scare you that anyone would fix their mind to compare your defense to Phoenix. Actually, that should worry you no matter which team you're a fan of.

Utah's season-long road struggles must be driving Sloan crazy. At least teams like the Blazers and Bulls can point to youth, learning how to deal with the travel and all that jazz. The Mormons? Maybe it's time to start praying. Or fire their travel agent, whoever picks the hotels and the meals, down to who puts chocolate on their pillows. They oughta be willing to try anything at this point.

What's happened to the Rest of the West?

Wasn't too long ago everyone was telling us how much better the Western Conference was. Now, there isn't another team who anyone can dream of putting up much of a fight versus the Lake Show. OK, Denver perhaps; we'll get a bit of insight to that matchup in less than 24 hours. I mean, they're rounding into form, peaking at the right time of the season, right? 8 in a row, 13 of their last 14, sounds like a powerhouse team, a legitimate #2 and a lock for a bitter conference finals matchup, right? Right?

Well, as we learned with Utah about a month ago, all streaks are not created equal. Thunder. Clippers. Nets. Grizzlies. Wizards. Warriors. Knicks. Mormons. Clippers again. T-Wolves. Thunder again. That's 11 of the 13 wins. Throw in a 2-pt victory over Mark Cuban's Jekyl-&-Hyde creation, and a fast-fading Hornets team, and does that win streak still excite you?

Didn't think so.

And the rest? Spurs -- no Ginobili, ailing Duncan? No way, mon. Houston -- 0-4 vs the Lakers? Big problem. Portland's kiddies? Take your first experience and run along home now youngsters. Hornets -- no Chandler and no Posey you say? Moving right along. The Jazz and Mavs? Seriously?

At least the Cavs/Magic/Celts triumvirate in the East give the impression of intrigue. If the Lakers play anywhere in the vicinity of their potential, the Western Conference race will turn out to look awfully similar to this year's NCAA tournament. A coronation and a foregone conclusion.

The pendulum is making a return swing.

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