Gilbert: Jazz road woes will kill any playoff run

By By Jon Gilbert and By Jon Gilbert

By Jon Gilbert

With the Utah Jazz boasting an 18-game home winning streak, its hard not to wonder if they can take things a step or two beyond last season’s successes. Well, call me the Grim Reaper of that notion.

The Jazz will advance past the first round of the NBA playoffs. That’s it — according to the standings before Wednesday night’s games.

However, there will be no magical run to the Western Conference Finals. There will be no eight-seed upset of the West’s top team that opens up the door for the Jazz to get second-round home court advantage. There will be no endearing story about Derek Fisher that inspires the team.

There will be only more heartbreak for the Jazz faithful. All for one reason: the Jazz simply cannot win on the road.

If Utah finishes in the top four in the West at season’s end, they will clinch home court advantage in the first round. Good luck to whoever has to visit EnergySolutions Arena for that playoff series.

Jerry Sloan’s club protects its home court better than any team in the league, which is evident by its league-best 28-3 home record. What’s more, Utah’s home record against Western Conference foes is 17-2 thus far this season. How is it possible that a team so dominant at home is fighting so desperately to secure a top-four seed?

If you caught Utah’s game at Chicago on Tuesday night, you know exactly where I’m going with this. The dominant team that Utahns enjoy within state boundaries turns into a team that more resembles the Junior Jazz outside of them.

Chicago is out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture right now and is playing .500 ball at home and still trumped Utah by double digits.

The Jazz have not put together a consistent effort on the road, demonstrated by their 14-20 road record. That disaster is punctuated by Utah’s 9-13 record on the road against the Western Conference.

The Jazz need to survive the first round of playoffs in seven games unless something changes soon. The postseason format uses a best-of-seven series that allots four home games to the highest-seeded team, including game seven if necessary. It’s more than likely that all seven games will be necessary for the Jazz to advance past round one.

Utah will then have to pray that every underdog carries a big bite and upsets the higher seed to give the Jazz home court advantage throughout the playoffs. So if you’re unreasonably optimistic or live in a room with padded walls, then the Jazz have a pretty good shot at claiming the NBA championship this season.

But if you put your shoes on the correct feet every morning without fail, then you should be a bit doubtful.

It doesn’t get much better from here. If Utah closes out the season winning every home game and losing every road game, then it will go 10-7 down the stretch. Although a 52-30 regular season record would result in the third seed in the Eastern Conference, it would probably land the Jazz anywhere from fifth to seventh in the brutal west.

You know what that means: goodbye playoff run, hello early off-season.

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