Big game: Utah Jazz can clinch playoff berth with win over Phoenix Suns
TNT-televised tilt at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday
SALT LAKE CITY — Al Jefferson hasn't been in the playoffs since his rookie season in 2005. Devin Harris hasn't participated in the postseason since 2007. Seven of their Utah Jazz teammates have never experienced the NBA's version of the Big Dance.
Paul Millsap hasn't had playoff action since Carlos Boozer, Deron Williams and Kyle Korver were some of Jerry Sloan's go-to guys.
That could all change this weekend.
"We're right there. We can smell it," Millsap said. "We've just got to take care of business."
The Jazz's business meeting begins tonight at 8:30, and a successful outcome will drastically increase their upcoming workload.
In other words, all they have to do to make the playoffs is beat future Hall of Famer Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns in tonight's TNT-televised tilt.
"We control (our) own destiny. You're not looking at anybody else to back into it," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "It's all on us to do what we need to do. If we win the game, we're in."
If not, they can still get in, but it becomes more complicated. Phoenix, which holds the tiebreaker over Utah regardless of tonight's result, would have to lose at home on Wednesday to San Antonio, and the Jazz would have to beat Portland on Thursday.
It's obvious what the Jazz prefer, and they're taking the approach that this is a must-win outing.
Problem is, Phoenix has beaten them seven straight times. But it's at EnergySolutions Arena, which is likely to be loaded and loud, and the Jazz come into this virtual play-in matchup having won three pressure-filled games in a row.
"Before every game, Coach (Corbin) said we need one," said Jefferson, the reigning Western Conference player of the week. "I told him one day, like, we always need one. We always need a win. We just got to go in there with that same mindset."
It seems like a lifetime ago, but the Jazz's last postseason adventure was in 2010. Nobody on the entire team — not even incoming players or coaches — were in the playoffs last season.
For Millsap, that one-year playoff layoff felt like an eternity.
"It was tough, especially when you're used to being there," Millsap said. "This organization is used to being there. It was tough on me and I know it was tough on the team."
Corbin, in his second partial season as head coach, has never had the pleasure of being the head honcho in the playoffs, either.
For him, it would be both a sweet reward for a season that had challenges but defied outsiders' expectations and a base to build upon for future seasons.
Corbin's predecessor, Jerry Sloan, was a major reason why the Jazz continued a trend Frank Layden started in 1984 and have made the postseason in 24 of the past 28 years.
"That's who we are. That's what we want to do," Corbin said when asked about the Jazz returning to the playoffs after just one year out. "It would be a great accomplishment for us after all the turmoil last year and the change of personnel some (with injuries) and being young and fighting our way through some tough situations with the lockout and not having a lot of practice."
Added Corbin: "These guys stayed together and worked. To be able to get back into the playoffs this soon would be great for us."
Rookies Alec Burks and Enes Kanter have never been in the postseason for obvious reasons, and second-year players Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Jeremy Evans didn't get in last spring after the Jazz had the historic freefall to miss out despite starting 27-13.
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