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Despite a Total Collapse, Utah Jazz Still Right Behind L.A. Lakers

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | March has been a tough month for the Utah Jazz.

First, they lost four in a row during an Eastern Conference road trip. Then, they got swept by all three Texas teams while visiting the Lone Star State.

Overall, they've compiled a pitiful 4-9 record.

Nevertheless, in spite of their struggles, the Jazz are just one win and one Los Angeles Lakers loss from recapturing the final Western Conference playoff spot. Which could easily happen on March 27, when the Jazz host the Phoenix Suns and the Lakers travel to Minneapolis to take on the Timberwolves.

"We just have to stick together and fight through it," said backup center Enes Kanter, "and I believe we can make the playoffs."

I do too. Especially if Gordon Hayward continues to play well.

Since Coach Corbin reinserted him into the starting line up on March 16, No. 20 has consistently packed the box score, averaging 15.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists per contest.

He's also scorched the nets. In his last six games, the former Butler standout has hit 13 of 23 (56.5 percent) from beyond the arc, including a sizzling 7 of 11 (63.6 percent) in his past four games.

''We can definitely [make the playoffs],'' Hayward said. ''We've beaten some of the best teams in the league. I know we can do it. It's just a matter of us going out there, playing as a team, helping each other defensively and making a lot of plays.''

Playing as a team is exactly what the Jazz did on March 25, when they snapped a four-game losing streak against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Almost everyone contributed to the victory, including Randy Foye, who led the team in scoring with six buckets (three of them 3-pointers) for 17 points, and Derrick Favors, who led the Jazz on the defensive end with 10 boards and three swats.

"It's good to end the [losing] streak, good to get a win at home,'' Hayward said. ''But it's just one of many we are looking to get here in the near future. We can't really celebrate this one too much.''

That's true, but if the Jazz step up and take advantage of this soft part in their schedule (which features games against Phoenix, Portland and New Orleans), they may get to celebrate on April 17.

Jared Bray, a graduate of Brigham Young University's broadcast journalism program, has followed the Utah Jazz since 2008, when he covered the team as a sports correspondent for KBYU-TV's Daily News at Noon.

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