Thursday, December 09, 2004

Still searching for answers and a win, Jazz drop to 8-11

The Jazz lost last night to the Orlando Magic, 106-100. The loss was the 6th in a row for Utah, and 8th in the their last 10 games. Players are frustrated and having trouble offering much in the way of an explanation or solution.

Some have tied the string of losses to when Carlos Arroyo returned from injury, thus effecting the Jazz's chemistry and the substitution rotation. Carlos, has not been playing well, but I don't that is the biggest reason.

Others have blamed the lack of defense by the Jazz. First they blamed the interior defense that was allowing opponents to get too many lay-ups. Lately they've questioned perimeter defense for allowing a barrage of three pointers as Cuttino Mobley and Damon Jones have each hit seven three pointers in the last two games. I think defense is a huge part of the problem so I agree to this point, but its more than that.

It stands out to me like a sore thumb. Ok, well actually a sore knee. Andrei Kirilenko injured his knee early in a game against San Antonio on November 27th. The Jazz went on to lose that game and the next 5 games. Not only have the Jazz yet to win since AK went out of the line-up, they have allowed the opponent to score over 100 points in each ball game. So can one, tall skinny, ball player make that much of a difference?

I don't argue the Jazz would have won all six of those games with a healthy Kirilenko. To be honest, four of those six teams are considered to be the very best this league has to offer. But AK brings defense with blocked shots and steals, he brings fast break baskets, he brings offensive rebounds and at least a couple spectacular plays per game. Further, he is the one player on the Jazz who you never see get intimidated or lose confidence. This is the man that got slammed to the ground by Shaq, only to go face up to him later in the game so Shaq could do it again. Fearless, confident, and not willing to back down. A little big of Andrei could go along way towards picking up this young team and giving them the attitude to deal with the good and bad.

The bad news is that Andrei isn't expected back anytime soon. I've heard nothing definitive, but I suspect it will be at least another two weeks. For a team that desperately needs veteran leadership, it can't happen soon enough.

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