Let’s cut through the gossip here and say it straight.
No, it can’t.
Check that out, unless it goes all the way through these playoffs. Does any part of the imagination have that kind of elasticity? That’s the only way, doing what no other jazz team has done: hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Otherwise, I’ll go with the statues.
My colleagues, Eric Walden and Andy Larsen, made their list of the five greatest jazz teams of all time, or at least since Jazz arrived in Utah in 1979. After watching all these teams play, here is mine.
Comparing and ranking teams of different generations comes with a sort of murky variability in which proof is difficult to obtain, but also with a license that does not require it.
That’s the beauty and the futility of exercise.
This particular effort is accompanied by something else for the Jazz 2020-21.
A team can be good, even excellent, or on the precipice, and still end up derailing and being disappointed, with empty hands and empty fingers.
The best teams in the history of jazz don’t know that.
The people of Utah certainly do.
Jazz is central to determining several aspects of an important issue, which has sparked millions of arguments among so-called sports experts over the years: Can a team be one of the best in the world? all the time if she doesn’t win a championship, because, say, the best player in the history of the game – another subjective conclusion – stood in her way? Is confronting a title enough / good enough? Can the individual stars of a team be great if their team – and therefore, they – are below or on the bigger stage?
We’re looking at you, Stockton and Malone, Mitchell and Gobert.
In the case of Jazz, the answer to these questions must be yes, because… there is no other choice. Hands and fingers aren’t the only things that are empty here. The trophy case is too.
With that little bit of pain absorbed, there were some tough decisions to be made in compiling the top five. A total of six jazz teams have qualified for the Western Conference Finals, four of which are included here. The two that were left out – the ’91 -92 and the ’93 -94 Jazz – might as well have been on the list. Seven Jazz teams have won at least 55 regular season games, including three. Whoever won 60 games isn’t, thanks to a big flop in the playoffs.
The team that might have had the best circumstantial chance of winning an NBA title, the Jazz 1998-99, is not included because this group – which finished with more wins (37) than any other in the course of a shortened regular season, rebounded from the playoffs in the second round by the Trail Blazers.
5. The Jazz 2006-07.
The Jazz had better regular season records in two of the following three years (54 wins in 2007-08 and 53 in 2009-10 versus 51 wins), but the 2006-07 team hit that level marked for any Jazz team, namely, an appearance in the Western Conference Finals.
Led by Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur and Andrei Kirilenko, this iteration beat the Rockets, 4-3, in a brutal first-round streak, before ousting Golden State, 4-1, in the next round, highlighting place a showdown with the San Antonio Spurs for entry into the NBA Finals. That didn’t happen when the Spurs closed the door on Jazz, 4-1, and won another championship with a Cavaliers sweep. You could say that the Jazz were the second best team in the league that season.
4. The Jazz 2020-21.
It follows here, it must be admitted, a serious recency bias, with this Jazz team having done nothing in the playoffs yet, the hefty standard by which all other historic teams have been measured. The 94-95 team, for example, won all of the aforementioned 60 regular season games but were ruled out due to a first-round playoff loss to the Rockets.
On the other hand, why compile a list like this if it has no relevant connection to the here and now? These guys, led by three All-Stars, get the benefit of the doubt thanks to a handful of numbers and a wonderfully vague eye test.
Quin Snyder’s 20-21 outfit was lovely to look at when not playing in Phoenix and Minnesota, conjuring a mix of selfish and altruistic offensive ball, allowing Donovan Mitchell to take flight, along with Jordan Clarkson, on good nights, but also to emphasize the pass first. attack that emphasizes spacing and movement, pick-and-roll and 3-point shooting, much of which is done at the start of the shot clock. What they have accomplished in the latter regard is, in fact, historic. No one has taken or made as many bombs as this team. Plus, not a night has gone by without Snyder talking about the importance of defense, and why wouldn’t he when he has the best defenseman on the planet – Rudy Gobert? This is verifiable.
The success of the Jazz – they place third in the offensive standings, third in the defensive standings and first in the net standings – in a season in which they have had the best record in the NBA longer than any other team, refines now for them a razor’s edge throughout the playoffs in the double-barreled form of high expectations and the pressure that comes with it to live up to the precedent they set.
They have before them the gaping opportunity to climb into future rankings like this and open jaws that could swallow them whole if they fail to win in the weeks to come.
3. The Jazz 1995-96.
This is the less talked about version of the Stockton-Malone-Hornacek Jazz, the one who lost in the Western Conference final to the Sonics, 4-3. After a regular season in which the Jazz went 55-27, it was nothing short of a missed chance, as strong as it was at the start of the playoffs, after beating Portland, 3- 2, and Spurs, 4-2, leading to the inglorious end.
In Game 7 of the WC Series, Karl Malone posted an effective field goal percentage of just 36%, making eight of 22 shots and missing six of 12 free throws for 22 points in what ended up being a four-point loss. . A win would have been for the Jazz if their star striker had hit his standards this season with 52% FG shots and 26 points.
2. The Jazz 1996-97.
This team had the best regular season record in Jazz history (64-18) and reached the NBA Finals, just like the Jazz 97-98. He finished second in offensive standings, seventh in defensive standings, second overall, also improving the following year’s squad. But its first entry into the league championship series seemed to catch this not quite prepared team for the assault, although its victory over the Rockets in the Western Finals featured the shot and the win. most memorable – Stockton for 3! – in the history of the club.
There’s another indignity about this particular 4-2 final loss to Chicago: The Jazz won the series – if you take away the last 30 seconds of each game.
1. The Jazz 1997-98.
Bigger numbers don’t confirm this, and perhaps common sense neither, this Jazz team finishing with two wins less than the previous season and placing 17th in defense, despite coming first in offense. . But from eye to field to brain, this team somehow seemed better than any other team in Jazz.
John Stockton and Malone and Jeff Hornacek led a team that played the best basketball a Jazz playoff team has ever played, leading to battle with the Bulls.
Utah edged the Rockets in the first round, then went 8-1 in the next two rounds, through the Spurs and Lakers. The LA sweep highlighted the firepower of the Jazz and possibly hurt them ahead of the finals, as they finished their jobs so quickly they found themselves sitting for a week and a half, waiting for Chicago to win. ballast.
Some think that the rest hurts the Jazz, that the rust sets in, takes them out of the rhythm they have found.
The Jazz valiantly won the first game of the series against Chicago in overtime. They lost the second when Malone went four in the second half. They lost 42 points in Game 3, shooting 30 percent, being killed on the boards by a negative of 12 and suffering from 26 turnovers.
But after losing Game 4 and leading 3-1, the Jazz, led by a fierce effort from Malone, fought back to win Game 5, a road game they couldn’t win, but did. made. In Game 6, the Jazz had possession and the lead, with 18 seconds left as the ball entered Malone’s iron mitts on the low block as Jordan stole the ball, ran down the court and … Well, you know the rest.
If that last streak hadn’t happened, the Jazz would have won Game 6 and entered Game 7 with the advantage that Scottie Pippen would not have played due to injury. Suffice to say that the Jazz would have won a championship.
It’s as good as it gets, as good as it ever got, for Utah Jazz.
Unless they’re doing something better, something bigger this time around.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 2 pm to 7 pm on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone, which is owned by parent company Utah Jazz.