SALT LAKE CITY — It has come down to a win-or-die scenario for the Jazz, here in the Land of Pretty Good. This team will be known as just that. It won 50 games in a tough Western Conference. But as far as the playoffs go, there’s a pretty good indication of what’s going to happen against Houston on Monday, and a very good indication of the extended forecast.
Saturday at Vivint Arena, the Jazz lost Game 3 after giving it a pretty good try. That’s Utah, the place that invented this slogan: “A pretty, great state.”
That was a pretty bad slogan.
So here sit the Jazz, on the verge of getting swept. Odds of that are ... well, you know.
“The playoffs show who you are,” said guard Kyle Korver.
How the Jazz reached this place is a combination of things. For one, they have a lineup filled with pretty good players but a shortage of great ones. Utahns have a pretty good place to live (though ex-Jazzman Trey Lyles would beg to differ). There is sunshine 222 days a year, when the national average, according to Bestplace.net, is 205.
But pretty good is what teams in Utah do best. Take a look at what happened around here in the last year. Utah finished third in Pac-12 in men’s basketball, but it didn’t make the NCAA Tournament. BYU finished tied for second in the West Coast Conference, but it too missed out. Both schools were bypassed by the NIT. Weber State finished fourth in the Big Sky in an 18-win season. Not terrible, but …
Utah Valley rose to good on the basis of 25 men’s basketball wins, finishing second in the WAC and playing in the CBI — a tournament none of the bigger programs accepted. BYU’s women’s basketball team won an NCAA Tournament game. Weber State’s football team reached the second round of the FCS playoffs. Utah State — which had the best year of anybody — reached the NCAA Tournament, having tied for the Mountain West basketball championship, won the conference tournament and finished in the top 25 in both football and basketball.
Those teams all were good, not pretty good.
The Utes won the Pac-12 South in football but weren’t ranked at season’s end, thanks to a meltdown in the upper-middle-class Holiday Bowl. BYU, which always has a fluctuating football schedule, won the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl but only finished 7-6. Real Salt Lake grabbed the final spot in the MLS playoffs and survived the knockout round, only to lose to Kansas City on aggregate. The Ute gymnastics team finished second in the Pac-12 but last in this year’s NCAA semifinals. The Utah Royals were fifth in their inaugural season. All of those teams were nothing to scoff at and nothing to go viral about.
This isn’t a complete list. There are dozens of other teams in Utah, in a few dozen different sports. Local volleyball, skiing and other teams had outstanding seasons. Some are good and a few are abysmal.
But as a group?
This is the place — for average or slightly above.
Pretty good is what the Jazz are, too. They earned the fifth seed in the playoffs for the last three years. They’ve reached the conference semifinals in two of those years, but no further since 2007. They have no All-Stars but they have a nice team.
What Utahns are hoping for is something beyond.
Exceptions happen, but 82-game schedules and best-of-seven series usually tell how good teams really are.
If the Jazz are eliminated Monday, it will be embarrassing, because all sweeps are. The regular season is a different story. This team won two more games than the previous year. Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert continued to improve. But chances the Jazz will take a dramatic leap in the offseason?
Not all that good.