Dicou: Could this be the year?

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

My head is killing me. That’s what I get for trying to figure out the complicated Sudoku puzzle known as “Whom will the Jazz face when the playoffs start this weekend?” Equally puzzling, “Will they have home-court advantage?” There are so many “if this happens, then this” scenarios, and to be honest, it’s all making my head spin.

On Sunday, I checked the standings, and, to my horror, I noticed that if the playoffs started that day, the Jazz would’ve faced none other than the San Antonio Spurs in the first round. I gulped hard. However, by Sunday night, order had restored itself as the Houston Rockets regained their spot as the Jazz’s first-round opponent.

I know I’m not the only Jazz fan out there praying to the basketball gods that the Jazz stay as far away from the Spurs as possible once the playoffs start. For that matter, the Jazz would be wise to avoid the Lakers as well. For whatever reason, the Jazz don’t play well against either team.

If the Jazz do meet up with the Spurs or Lakers in a seven-game series and come out victorious, I think I’ll spend the rest of the summer wearing a drunk-looking grin on my face. Speaking of faces, wouldn’t it be sweet to, once and for all, wipe that smug look off Phil Jackson’s face? Better yet, wouldn’t it be nice to finally put an end to Manu Ginobili haunting our dreams?

I think the Jazz can beat any other team in the playoffs in a seven-game series. Against the Spurs and Lakers, it’d be a lot tougher — yet far from impossible.

For whatever reason, the minute the Jazz step into the greater San Antonio area, they become shells of their former selves. The Jazz haven’t won in San Antonio since Feb. 28, 1999, in a game in which Adam Keefe scored six points and pulled down eight boards — yes, it was that long ago. Considering how the Jazz have played on the road this season, it’s far from a guarantee that this is their year to finally end the streak. But it’s got to come to an end at some point. Doesn’t it? I mean, this can’t go on forever. Can it?

As you can tell, I’m not incredibly optimistic about the Jazz’s chances of winning a playoff series against the Spurs. However, I do possess a quiet confidence that the Jazz have as good a chance as anybody to win it all, maybe even a little better.

Strangely enough, the Jazz are getting believers beyond the usual Utah-based homers. Not only has Charles Barkley expressed his confidence in the Jazz’s ability to make the finals, ESPN’s John Hollinger, the sports empire’s resident NBA guru, believes the Jazz have the best chance in the West of winning the title.

Using a scientific process that only he understands, Hollinger has come to the conclusion that the Jazz have a 30.4 percent chance of making it to the NBA finals. The next closest contender in the West is the Lakers, whose chances of making the finals — 15.5 percent — are half as good as those of the Jazz. Hollinger said the Jazz have a 15.6 percent chance of winning it all. Yes, you heard it right, folks. A member of the national media believes that the Jazz have the best chance in the West of finally winning a ring. The Lakers, Hollinger said — and again, this has all been figured out using his advanced system and therefore must be true — have only a 7.1 percent chance of winning a title, which is still good enough for second in the West.

Get this: the feared San Antonio Spurs, the very team that has induced fear in Jazz players and fans alike for nine long years, have only a 6.5 percent chance of reaching the finals and a mere 2 percent chance of becoming champs.

Only the Boston Celtics — with a 64.6 percent chance of reaching the finals and a 42.7 percent chance of winning the championship — have better odds than the Jazz.

Maybe Barkley and Hollinger are right. After all, both are pros at understanding the subtle nuances of what makes a great basketball team. They must know what they’re talking about.

With that, I say, bring on San Antonio! (gulp)

[email protected]