For much of 1929, Americans were feeling the groove. Enough so that Irving Fisher, a professor of economics at Yale, was moved to predict in September that stock prices had "reached what looks like a permanently high plateau."

A few days later the stock market crashed. Then came the Great Depression.

What that has to do with the Utah Jazz is this: Some say things are OK, everything is going to be fine. The season isn't even at the midway point. The Jazz have certainly played a tough early schedule, including the league's best — San Antonio, Portland, Orlando, Dallas, Boston, Detroit, Phoenix.

There's nothing to worry about, right?

Unless you consider missing the playoffs worrisome.

In which case you might want to start looking for a building to leap off.

The Jazz wrapped up the second of a four-game home stand, Thursday night at ES Arena, with a 108-86 win over the the injury-and-illness-depleted Suns. That makes it 37 games gone, 45 to go. As of Thursday's tip-off, the Jazz were grinding along with the ninth-best record in the West, out of playoff contention. Could the Big Collapse be right around the corner?

Maybe it's here and the Jazz just don't know it yet.

Before beating Phoenix, the Jazz were 19-17, compared to 24-12 last year. Their record was identical to what it was after 36 games in 2005-2006, 2003-2004 and 2001-02. And you know what happened then: They only made the playoffs one of those three years, and ended up winning just one playoff game.

The only time the Jazz have started worse since the late 1980s was in 2004-05, when they began with a 12-24 record.

This year's Jazz have had their moments. Put them at home and they're fine. But put them in a strange environment and they're as helpless as an abandon kitten. This year's team is just 6-14 on the road. That's dangerously close to the 2004-05 season, when the Jazz were 5-15 in early January, or the year before when they were 4-16.

It's safe to say this year's team has been playing a lot like the Jazz teams that missed the playoffs.

Realistically, last year's team went farther than it should have. The Western Conference Finals were a stretch for a team so young and untested. A combination of determination, luck, and plain old ignorance got them as far as the observation deck. Top floor, well, that would have to wait.

While advancing deep in the playoffs should never be considered bad, it did raise expectations to a ridiculous level. If the Jazz fail to get past the first round of the playoffs this year, it will be a major disappointment. If they miss the playoffs, it will be an unmitigated disaster. That's what happens when things go unexpectedly well.

While it's true they are on the young side, they're no longer kids, either. Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur are in their sixth seasons, Andrei Kirilenko his seventh, Matt Harpring his 10th and Kyle Korver his fifth. Though Deron Williams is in just his third year, he has been starting since the midway through his rookie season.

They're not grizzled veterans, but they're not babes in the woods, either.

When it comes to road games, they should know better.

Yet away from home they continue to make the same mistakes, turning the ball over in the second half, failing to guard their own shadows.

Already this season, they have lost road games to New York and Miami, which have won just 17 games between them.

Thus, while Thursday's win was appreciated by Jazz fans, it didn't shed much light on the situation. The Suns played without All-Stars Steve Nash, Shawn Marion and Grant Hill. Was it pretty? Not particularly, though the Jazz might disagree.

Any time you beat one of the league's better teams, it's beautiful thing.

Then again, almost everyone looks good when they're at home, in front of their own mirror, where they can get the lighting just right.


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