Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Jazz Show Signs of Life

The Utah Jazz showed signs of life in their 109-100 victory over the Seattle Sonics last night. It might be more accurately stated as "Signs of Health". The two stars of the game for the Jazz were Andrei Kirilenko, playing just his 3rd game back from injury, and point guard Raul Lopez, who has had his career limited by injuries.

Andrei Kirilenko played two 10 minute stretches for the Jazz, as he is still being limited by the trainers who do not want to rush him back too quick. Perhaps no other player is as hard to describe as AK 47, in that when he is on the floor good things happen and you can't always measure them. That doesn't mean he is a quiet player, as when you are finished watching you know his impact is huge, and huge in a way that the box score sometimes misses. I am not sure whether "Jigsaw" is a good nickname for him or not, but its many different pieces that come together to make an effective result with Andrei. Blocked shots, steals, offensive rebounds, deflections, and off the ball movement are things that he excels at. Sure, he delivers points and rebounds and some assists, but he is dominant in those other areas. Kirilenko being back from injury definitely brings hope to the fans. You can sense it.

Raul Lopez was the unquestioned star of the game. Raul played a career high 38 minutes and set season highs of 20 points and 11 assists. Keep in mind, Lopez had averaged only 13.6 minutes per game this season, but was thrust into the starting point guard position due to the trade of Carlos Arroyo and the recent injury to Keith McLeod. Health will be a key, but this guy may not give back the starting position for a while.

Did anyone see this victory by the Jazz coming? The author of the best Sonics blog going, is in tune with pulse of his team and predicted this outcome correctly (click and read for yourself). I for one was somewhat surprised. I thought the fact that Seattle played the night before, while the Jazz were home and resting, meant it could be close. However, after watching the offensive show Seattle put on the Jazz over the weekend, it was hard to imagine them being slowed down by the less than impressive defense the Jazz have been playing.

The Jazz have a home dominated schedule with 4 of the next 5, and 5 of the next 7, being played in the Delta Center. As the season is rapidly ticking away, the Jazz must now start to win if there is any prayer of playoff contention. I shouldn't mention this, but the Jazz are now 15-28 on the season, and would have to finish 26-13 to get to .500 (which still may not be a playoff birth in the rugged Western Conference).

A closing comment on the Sonics (whom the Jazz have finished playing for the year), is that they sure are fun to watch shoot the basketball. Ray Allen might be the purest bomber in Seattle since Downtown Freddie Brown. And probably not since Jack Sikma have they had a big guy step out like Vladimir Radmanovic and bury endless jumpers. It doesn't end there either as Rashard Lewis, Luke Ridnour, and Antonio Daniels all seem to drop daggers when left open.

No comments: