Utah Jazz: Chasing the playoffs is the only storyline

There really is only one storyline with the Utah Jazz these days: The Race.

Down to the final three games of the season, they trail the L.A. Lakers by a game in the race for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot.

Tonight, the Jazz (41-38) will play host to Minnesota (29-49) at EnergySolutions Arena and the Lakers will welcome Golden State to Staples Center.

Essentially, these are playoff games.

“I’m not going to lie to you,” Utah’s Randy Foye said after Friday’s shootaround. “It’s been like this for at least the last 20 games. Every game has been like, we’re talking into the game and saying, ‘We can’t lose.’”

“You know the situation, you know what you’ve got to do, you know you’ve got to win games,” Foye added. “You know you can’t afford to lose games.”

Foye said that must-win attitude doesn’t even need to be communicated in the locker room, it’s just understood.

“Not saying it (verbally), but you can just tell from looking in someone’s eyes, who you’ve been around the whole year, or looking at the body language, you just know,” he said. “From the time they step on that bus at the hotel –headphones on — focused straightaway (it’s a playoff feeling).”

If nothing else, the fact the Jazz have something to play for down the stretch has sparked players’ competitive juices. Over the past few weeks several Utah players have said they’re having fun and enjoying the competitive nature of the playoff chase.

Mo Williams called it “fun.” So has Foye and Gordon Hayward.

“This is fun, man,” Foye said Friday. “This is definitely fun.”

Foye said he has even enjoyed watching L.A.’s Kobe Bryant will the Lakers into the playoff picture.

Williams stopped short of saying that.

“Well, I haven’t enjoyed that,” he said. “But for our sake I think (experiencing) the togetherness, how we’ve stuck together through this time (has been rewarding). I think we accepted the challenge to stay together and whatever happens in these three games, I feel comfortable with this team that we gave or (have given) all we have.”

Tonight is Utah’s final home game of the regular season and if the Jazz can’t overtake the Lakers, it’ll be their final game at ESA until late October or early November.

The Jazz are 29-11 on their home floor this season.

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About Jim Burton

Jim Burton has worked for the Standard-Examiner since 1991. He has covered everything from the preps to Utah, BYU, Weber State and the Ogden Raptors. Currently he is the Standard's Utah Jazz beatwriter and its sports columnist.
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