The Utah Jazz appeared to be in trouble at the end of March. Despite a six-game winning streak in the middle of the month, they lost four of their last five to close it out and found themselves in a fight for their playoff lives heading into the final few weeks of the shortened season.
Thankfully for the fans in Utah, point guard Devin Harris found his groove. Harris, who had scored more than 20 points in a game just once before this month began, has 20 or more six different times in the last 10 games. Not coincidentally, the Jazz won seven of those last 10 to hold off Phoenix and Houston. The Jazz will take on the West’s top seed, San Antonio, in the first round of the playoffs.
Devin Harris joined 97.5 The Zone in Salt Lake City with Gordon Monson to discuss making it to the playoffs, if the team ever doubted it would get there, he and the team getting better down the stretch, the time it took to get used to running the point in Utah and what the team has to do to win in the playoffs.
How does it feel to be back in the playoffs?:
“I’m feeling pretty good. It was a total team win [Tuesday] night. We responded with our backs against the wall and I’m proud of the guys the way we’ve been playing the last month or so.”
You were optimistic about getting here before the season began, but were there doubts along the way?:
“I don’t think there was any doubt in our locker room. We knew from the first day we came in we had this type of potential. It wasn’t always easy for us, we had some ups and downs throughout the season, but for the most part, guys really got better, and especially after the All-Star break really focused in on what we needed to do.”
How is that accomplished that a team keeps getting better down the stretch?:
“We’ve got high-character guys, guys who care about winning and guys who, when the opportunity presents itself, they take advantage. We’ve had a lot of key injuries the last month and a half and we definitely could have folded and kind of tanked the season, but our guys, especially our younger guys, came in and gave us a big lift and that’s the reason we’re playing the way we’re playing right now.”
You, personally, also seemed to come on late. What was the key to that?:
“I think it was really the All-Star break. I really got a chance to kind of get away from it, kind of rethink things, refocus. And when I came back from the three- or four-day break, I was kind of refocused and re-keyed in on what I needed to do to play well.”
How long did it take you to get comfortable in the Jazz offense and how did you kind of make it your own?:
“The beginning of the season I tended to struggle because I was used to ball control so much with the teams I’ve had before. I ran a lot of pick-and-rolls and things like that, so I really had to figure it out and it really took me longer than it probably should have. But after the All-Star break, just kind of watching games, just figured out when to be aggressive, when to get my teammates involved and how to coexist with that fine line.”
What will you tell some of your teammates that haven’t been to the playoffs before?:
“For the most part, we just have to play like we’ve been playing. I think the last probably two or three weeks, we’ve been playing playoff-type basketball, especially the games that have been going to overtime. … Those type of games, how we play then, is going to determine how we’re successful in the playoffs. I don’t want to put too much pressure on the young guys, but to just continue to do what they’ve been doing.”
What else does this team have to do to win in the playoffs?:
“We’ve got to grow up a little bit more. I think we’ve done it over the course of the season, but the playoffs is a different level. The sooner we can grow up, the better I think we’ll be. Obviously a lot of these games are going to be close. We have to execute late in the game, offensively and defensively. We’ve got some of our veteran guys coming back and how they fit into the situation, whether that’s a smooth transition, a lot of things factor into how we’ll play.”