Leaving Sacramento this time around must have felt a whole lot different than the last. Back on February 28th, the Jazz got run over by the Kings to fall a season-low three games under .500 at 15-18. The season looked like it was over. There were gripes over playing time. The young players looked lost. The veterans were inconsistent. Hope and confidence were not exactly bursting out of the Jazz lockerroom.
Fast forward three weeks later, and the Jazz look like a playoff team. After losing a 14-point lead, the Jazz didn't fold up the tent like they did last month. The rallied to take the lead not once, not twice, but three different times in the final minute to finally put the Kings away. On the road, no less.
Al Jefferson's tip-in with .9 seconds left was indicative of how the season has turned. The Jazz have won five in a row, and a sixth straight over Denver tonight would tie them for the 7th seed in the Western Conference. They've been the likes of the Heat, the Lakers and the Thunder over the past month. That was unthinkable at the all-star break.
So what's been the difference? The kids. Derrick Favors, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward and Enes Kanter are finally getting the minutes they deserve and they are responding night after night. Favors is a matchup problem for every team with his low-post ability and defensive prowess. And we can't forget about the contributions of Jamaal Tinsley, who has played even better than the guy he's filling in for, Earl Watson.
Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are the rocks, Devin Harris is the glue, but it's the young guns that can take the Jazz to the next level.
I'm not saying the Jazz are ready to make a run at the Western Conference Finals. But if they can sneak into the playoffs as a 6 or 7 seed, they will be a tough out. If that happens, Tyrone Corbin deserves some mention for NBA coach of the year.
Let's just hope now that I've jumped back on the bandwagon, the wheels don't fall off again.