Mark Stein of ESPN.com has broken down the 8 Western Conference playoff teams in a recent article on that website. He's bullish on the Lakers, stating: "Followers of other teams might not enjoy the view, but it must be hard to stop your mind from wandering ahead to June when looking at the playoff pairings through a strictly Lakers prism."
About the Utah Jazz? Not so much. "Positivity about the Jazz is not easily delivered these days," Stein declares, noting the team's home court fortress, purportedly the toughest in the league, has been recently breached by such Western Conference powerhouses as Minnesota and Golden State.
Stein calls the Laker series "unwinnable" for the Utah Jazz.
Stein dates Utah's nosedive from March 31, more than a month after forward Carlos Boozer returned to the lineup.
Stein states: "Rumblings in front-office circles around the league are growing louder that the uncertain futures of potential free-agent forwards Paul Millsap, Mehmet Okur and Boozer -- since it's unclear who's staying and who's going -- have caused tensions in the locker room that have seeped into Utah's play. An increasing lack of togetherness would certainly help explain what's been happening at the defensive end, judging by the 125, 118 and 130 points the Jazz gave up in three of their final four regular-season losses."
Stein indicates that a "flurry of changes" are possibly looming for the Jazz as they continue to fade farther and farther from elite status.