COMMENTARY | Help Wanted: Established Go-To Guy.
If Utah Jazz team officials could post an ad around the NBA's 28 arenas, that's probably how it would read.
With a 9-10 record, the guys in navy and gold are in desperate need of a closer, someone who can step up in crunch time and get the job done.
This was especially evident earlier this week, when the Jazz dropped a close one to the Los Angeles Clippers in Salt Lake City.
Utah controlled the entire game -- and even led by two, 99-97, with 1:29 remaining -- but couldn't hold on for the victory. By the time the final buzzer sounded, the Jazz had been edged 104-105.
So how did Lob City come out on top?
They had one of those go-to guys.
Chris Paul may have had an unremarkable game through the first three quarters, but he certainly came through when the stakes were at their highest: He made two driving layups late in the fourth, one around the two-minute mark that gave his team a one-point lead and another with under 40 seconds to go that gave L.A. a two-point advantage.
A few Jazzmen tried to fill that role, such as Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Unfortunately, Big Al and Milly weren't as clutch as CP3. The two missed a combined four shots (a free-throw, a jumper, a layup and a blocked floater) when they mattered the most.
The Jazz have now lost six games -- including an 86-88 defeat to the lowly New Orleans Hornets -- that have been decided by nine points or less.
Now, I'm not saying Utah is a bad team. On the contrary, this roster is loaded with talent.
They have a solid center (Jefferson averages 16.7 points and 10.5 rebounds per game), a sharp-shooting two guard (Randy Foye is hitting 46.1 percent of his 3s) and an energetic floor general (Mo Williams is collecting 6.9 assists per contest).
But if the Jazz want to be more than good, they need to acquire, or develop, a closer.
The great teams have them. Just look at recent champions.
Last year, the Miami Heat had two: LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. In 2011, the Dallas Mavericks had Dirk Nowitzki. The 2009 and 2010 Los Angeles Lakers had Kobe Bryant. And the Boston Celtics won it all in '08 thanks to Paul Pierce.
The Jazz are close to being one of the elite teams in the NBA. In fact, they're eight points from being 12-7. Right now, however, they're just ordinary.
Should they be content with that?
I say bring out those help-wanted ads.
Jared Bray, a graduate of Brigham Young University's College of Fine Arts and Communications, 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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