So the 20-17 Jazz beat the Steve Nash-Shawn Marion-Grant Hill-less Suns last night, 108-86. While Phoenix is the best team in the Western Conference, they were missing three of their four or five best players. With that said, last night's win was a big one for the Jazz. They needed that sort of confidence, and a win to nearly put them back in the playoff picture, if the playoffs were to start today.
However, there is plenty of room for caution as 45 games remain on the schedule. As Deseret Morning News columnist Brad Rock pointed out, three of the past six seasons, the Jazz had the same identical 19-17 record through 36 games.
Those past three seasons were 2001-02, 2003-04, and 2005-06. The final tally of those seasons? 44-38, to take the last spot of the playoffs; 42-40; and 41-41, to barely miss the playoffs both times.
This is not inconceivable to happen this season. The Western Conference playoff race is now a 10-team affair, and the Jazz are currently ninth, a half-game behind #8 Golden State and a half-game ahead of #10 Houston. Every other team of those ten are 21-13 or better, nearly three games better than Utah.
There is still plenty of time remaining on the season, and the Jazz have the roster to rise up the standings. However, the question is if this will happen. Utah still loses road games that they have no business losing. Though the Jazz are still young, they aren't exactly NBA newborns anymore. But they are still losing to teams like New York and Miami, two of the fecal teams of the league. If they can clear these teams out of the system, and only have to worry about choking against the Spurs and Mavs of the world, then they can possibly rise to even fourth in the conference.
Do I think that the Jazz will still make the playoffs? Hmm... yes. I still think they will. In fact, I can still see them improving to my pre-season prediction of 49-33 and getting the sixth seed. This is very possible.
The Jazz just have to accept the fact that they aren't infants anymore... they are toddlers. And a group of very talented toddlers, at that.