Last night, the Jazz lost a close game to the Atlanta Hawks. With 1.5 seconds left, off an intentionally missed free throw by Kyle Korver, Mitchell flew in for the rebound and missed a three from the corner to force it to overtime. The Hawks won 117-114. The Jazz couldn’t make the key defensive stops necessary to win and Atlanta made key plays in the clutch.
When Utah loses games like this, it makes me question if they are poised to make noise in the playoffs. The Kings are still in the playoff hunt on technicality, but they are basically eliminated from playoff contention. Utah is definitely making the playoffs, but it is yet to be determined where they will place in terms of seeding. The problem with Utah is they will go through lulls where they look offensively inept and uninspired on defense. It has been an up and down season for the Jazz. One day they will beat the Warriors, and the next they will lose by 50 to the Mavericks. This inconsistency as well as their unbalanced schedule gives me great concern for the Jazz. This loss to Atlanta is just one of many embarrassing losses this month. Earlier, the Jazz lost a 15 point lead in the fourth quarter at home against a Pelicans team that didn’t play Anthony Davis in the fourth quarter. The Jazz also lost a putrid Grizzlies team in which Joakim Noah overpowered Rudy Gobert in the paint. The Jazz’s inability to garner consistent wins against below-average opponents is a cause for great concern. The main upside for the Jazz is that the roster is cohesive and their team chemistry is very high. Hopefully that will carry into the playoffs and lead to wins.
For the Hawks, their record does not tell the whole story. Yes, their team is not very good, but it is loaded with potential. John Collins is a forward that can stretch the floor and rebound. Taurean Prince and Kevin Huerter are players that can shoot the three and play pretty good defense. These players, as well as Kent Bazemore need to improve their shooting percentage if they want to become better players. And, or course, there is Trae Young. Because of the Luka Doncic explosion, Trae Young has not been in the spotlight as often. He started out slow, shooting 29% from three in the first half of the season and averaging over three turnovers per game. However, since the Hawks have been eliminated from the playoffs, there has been less attention given to them. That lack of pressure could be one of the reasons Trae Young has improved his shooting from three as well as his assist to turnover ratio. The Hawks will most likely have the fifth pick in the draft. If they can bring in a marque free agent, the Hawks could turn it around quickly and be a force to be reckoned with next year.