Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — After opening the season with a couple of awfully ugly losses on the road, the Utah Jazz seem to have figured things out in the last week, winning four of their last five games.
Of course, all four of those victories came on their home court. Still, after double-digit defeats at Los Angeles and Denver, followed by another one at San Antonio, cast a great deal of doubt on Utah's chances for success this season, the Jazz have more recently shown promising glimpses of the type of team they'll be in the future.
And at times, it looks like it could be a darned good one.
"I've seen tangible improvement," Utah head coach Tyrone Corbin said Friday. "Everybody in this league is capable of winning games on any floor, and we've done a good job on our home floor. I don't care who we play, you want to win the game, and we've taken care of that part of it by winning the game against whoever the schedule presents to us.
"I think the key thing for us is that we're playing better, we're reading each other a lot better and we're playing harder on the defensive end of the floor and playing more consistent on both ends of the floor."
Corbin and Co. got a two-day break between games in this compacted 66-game NBA regular-season schedule, and the Jazz (4-3) got in a good day of practice on Thursday.
"I want to make sure as we go forward here, we've got to tighten up," Corbin said. "We've got to get a lot sharper in executing on the offensive end, a lot crisper and talking to each other on the defensive end of the floor, and make our movements a lot more instinctive and read where you're not thinking as much. And we've got to keep getting repetition so we can get better at doing that."
Second-year forward Gordon Hayward pointed at Utah's improved defense as the biggest factor in helping the team turn things around. But he also cautioned that, although the Jazz seem to have shaken off their slow start to the season, it's still much too soon to make too much of their recent resurgence.
"Defensively, we definitely have picked that up for sure," Hayward said. "We still have a long ways to go and a lot of work to do, but it's improved for sure.
"Winning puts a smile on everybody's face for sure, but I think we know, though, that it's a long season and we can't get too high on the highs or too low on the lows."
Asked about the reason for Utah's recent winning ways, point guard Devin Harris deadpanned: "Besides we're playing at home?" which got a good laugh from the assembled media. Then he got more serious.
"I think we just gained experienced," Harris said. "We learned to play together a lot more, we're moving the ball, we're figuring out who we are and finding an identity as a team. And I think defensively we're really starting to figure some things out."
SHOOTING STARS: After struggling severely with their field goal shooting early in the season, the Jazz have definitely found their range from the floor over the last few games.
Five different players weighed in on why they think the team has been shooting better in recent outings.
"We're getting a lot better looks, we're moving the ball and getting guys open shots," Harris said, "and I think we're having success at getting the ball inside."
Second-year forward/center Derrick Favors kept it very simple. "Everybody's sharing the ball," he said.
Starting center Al Jefferson said it was a matter of the team learning to play together.
"I think everybody's just getting in a better groove, and the new guys are understanding the plays," he said. " ... So the longer we go, the better we'll get."
Veteran swingman Josh Howard cited three reasons for Utah's improved marksmanship.
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