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Pizza’s Deliveries: Ten observations for the Jazz in the playoffs

By Tony Pizza

Remember that Gatorade commercial in which sportscaster Keith Jackson dramatically unfolds the story of Australian Ironman athlete Chris Legh?

You know, that commercial that shows Legh leading the 1997 murderous 140-mile Ironman death march in Hawaii only to have his body shut off with only 500 meters left? The one where Legh is jogging toward the finish line, and then wham, Legh gets rocked back like he just ran into a Muhammad Ali right hook at full speed? Then the commercial ends with Legh learning all about hydration at the Gatorade Institute, which helps him snap the tape at the 2004 Ironman in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Call me crazy, but the tail end of the Jazz’s regular season looked a lot like the last 500 meters for Legh in 1997, didn’t it?

The only question I have is, is there a Gatorade Institute for the Jazz so they can hydrate themselves enough to get through the first round of the playoffs?

I offer 10 observations to help answer that question.

1. There is no institution that can teach the Jazz to play perimeter defense, but because Houston is the fifth-best team in the league from beyond the three-point line, the Jazz have to figure out some way to rectify this problem.

Maybe Phil Johnson could stop by the Home Depot, pick up a large claw hammer and some industrial strength two-inch nails and pin the Jazz to the floor around the perimeter. Otherwise, Luther Head and his 44-percent shooting from three-point land is going to hamper the Jazz.

2. Mehmet Okur needs to wake up. Whether it’s a case of a post-All-Star slump or it’s because Okur has been taking one too many baby feedings at night, Okur hasn’t quite been himself for a few months now. We need money in the playoffs, and Memo is the Jazz’s cash cow from beyond the arc.

3. Make a plan to let Andrei Kirilenko be Tracy McGrady’s shadow. In fact, before each game, Sloan can just go up to the scorer’s table and tell them every time McGrady checks in and out, to go ahead and count the same for AK. In fact, AK will also follow McGrady into the bathroom and wait by the stall while he takes care of business. The Jazz can’t take any chances with this.

4. Keep Boozer at the elbow and Okur behind the three-point line when Yao Ming is on the floor. Booz can handle the mid-range jumper and the Jazz need to clear up space in the middle for their cutters.

5. Hire Greg Ostertag on a 10-day contract. Let Ostertag start, and then have him deliver an elbow shiver to Juwan Howard’s chops the first chance he gets. Howard has had this coming for a long time.

6. Incorporate hockey rules and let Vassilis Spanoulis and Derek Fisher fight whenever the two tangle up. The same rule can apply to Kirk Snyder and Matt Harpring when they battle for position on the low post. If there are any fights during the series, they will be between these two pairs — unless Memo takes Dikimbe Mutumbo’s finger-wagging the wrong way.

7. As much as it pains me to say, Gordon Giricek has earned the playing time. He also has the size to guard Houston’s two guards in this series. But Sloan can’t be afraid to shelf this guy at the first sign of bad luck. Missing his first three shots is a good example.

8. The Jazz have to win the rebounding battle in every game. They can’t give Houston second-chance opportunities. If this means keeping all five guys home for long rebounds off three-pointers, so be it.

9. I hope Larry Miller wears a long-sleeve shirt. I think his elbows are a distraction. That’s all I’m saying.

10. Someone needs to kick Okur in the junk before the game and get this guy psyched up. He’s 7 feet tall; he shouldn’t have 6-foot guards scoring on him in the paint. Take someone’s head off. These are the playoffs. It’s like war without all the politics.

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