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Jazz focusing on the 'now' in tight playoff race

By Ryan Miller, | Posted - Mar 23rd, 2019 @ 10:28pm

CHICAGO — Every time Jazz center Rudy Gobert goes to his phone and checks the NBA scores of the day, he sees the standings tab.

And every time, he taps on it.

“I see standings, I’m gonna click,” Gobert said.

He’s like most fans in that regard.

He knows where the Jazz are in the tightly contested West. He knows that one loss can send them sliding to near the bottom of the seeding chase and a win can keep them in the hunt for home-court advantage. The trick, though, is not getting caught up in it.

After Saturday night’s game, the Jazz, Clippers, and Thunder are all tied for the fifth spot in the West (the Jazz would be the sixth seed if those teams all ended the season tied), and the Spurs are just a game back in eighth. But that’s not the only thing to keep an eye on. The Nuggets are just a half game back from the Warriors for the conference’s top seed, and the Rockets and Blazers are in a tight race for third and fourth.

All the different scenarios could have someone thinking for hours. And that’s what the Jazz are trying to avoid by attempting not to pay attention — something that is sometimes easier said than done.

“It’s tough,” Mitchell said. “It’s really tough, especially since that’s what everybody talks about — who we are playing, where we are. It’s darn near impossible not to see it. You just try your best to focus on the now.”

The “now” on Saturday was the Chicago Bulls — an already bad team playing without some key rotational guys. If there was a team that would have been easy to overlook, it would have been the Bulls.

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But as evidenced by a 70-36 halftime score in favor of Utah, the Jazz certainly didn’t.

“You know it's such a fine line and everything goes so fast in this league,” Gobert said. “So it’s all about getting ready for the next game. Just keep getting better.”

That would have made Jazz coach Quin Snyder happy. Snyder preaches about the process, not the results. He obviously cares about wins and losses, but he cares more about how his team performs in them. If the Jazz win and they play poorly, he’s not satisfied. If they lose and play well, it’s easier to stomach.

How the Jazz play is what he and his team can control. And that’s why he chooses to focus on that and not the tight playoff race surrounding his club.

“You can’t pay attention to what other people are doing cuz you can’t control it,” Snyder said. “We can control what we do tonight.”

The process of this season isn’t over for Snyder. The playoffs are three weeks away still — 21 days from Saturday. Snyder mentioned the old, if not outdated, adage that it takes 21 days to form a habit. He wants the Jazz to continue to perfect their habits.

And if they do that, then the playoff seeding chase will hopefully take care of itself. The Jazz have just nine games remaining. Nine games until the process must really turn into results.

“Even if it's the end of the year, you are still trying to get better,” Snyder said. “Hopefully, part of getting better is being able to win on the road. Whether it’s fatigue on a road trip or coming off a loss, that’s how we want to approach it. To stay energized and try to stay healthy and play your best basketball at the right time of year.”

That right time is coming up.

That’s why Gobert can’t help but sneak a glance at the standings.

Ryan Miller

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