SALT LAKE CITY — At the quarter pole, or at least as close as you can get in an 82-game NBA regular season without actually crossing it, the Jazz are warming up.
Finding their stride.
Hottest team in the NBA, the case can be made, along with the 14-4 Dallas Mavericks — who just happen to visit EnergySolutions Arena on Friday night.
After a 110-88 win over Indiana on Wednesday night that marked 15-5 Utah's seventh straight victory, matching the seven-game win streak Dallas has after beating Minnesota on Wednesday, let's count the ways:
The Jazz are now 9-0 this season when leading after three quarters, including 7-0 at home;
They're 11-1 when scoring more than 100 points, the lone exception being a 115-108 loss to Oklahoma City on Nov. 15; and
They've held each of their last nine straight opponents under 100, going 8-1 in that stretch.
"It's a great record," said small forward Andrei Kirilenko, who had a line of 18 points, seven rebounds, two steals, one assist and one block Wednesday. "I want to give credit to our team. We're playing well, and we're playing very concentrated and focused.
"But," Kirilenko hastened to add, "it is not over yet."
No, it's not.
Not by a long shot.
Not with 62 games still to go before postseason play, which at this rate seems inevitable for them, gets under way.
Still, there is satisfaction to be had for the Jazz in what they've done to date — and especially what they did Wednesday.
They never trailed Indiana in what became their largest margin of victory season;
They had all five starters score in double figures against the Pacers, pushing them to 3-0 when that happens; and
They committed only a season low-tying seven turnovers, evidence that things really are starting to come together for coach Jerry Sloan's club.
"We're still learning to play with each other. But we're playing way better," Kirilenko said. "You know, right now we have less and less stretches when we're losing the ball."
"We are executing pretty well right now," added point guard Deron Williams, who had a 24-point, 16-assist double-double. "Earlier on in the season, we were a little out of place, out of synch. We were getting more turnovers. Lately, we've been taking care of the ball."
Swingman C.J. Miles, who added another 13 points off the bench, sees two-fold stimulus behind the improved play.
One is a matter of comfort that's come "once we got our rotation set and figured out the first and second unit, and how we were going to do it if there was foul trouble."
The other is all about hustle and effort.
"You see guys on the floor, you see guys chasing down balls," Miles said. "We're just coming with an energy and a focus and a mentality of knowing that's what we have to do."
If only they can keep bringing it, the suggestion of 60-win pace — which got bandied about in the Utah locker room afterward — doesn't seem far-fetched at all.
Not that anyone with the Jazz is counting on such a sizzling season just yet.
"There are many, many games in front of us," Kirilenko said, "so we have to pay attention and keep playing the same way we're playing now."
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