Brad Rock: At midway point, Jazz still working on overcoming slow starts
My wife is an afternoon person. On Saturdays, she likes to arise around 10 a.m., shower at 11, then do her hair and makeup. By 1 or 2, she's unstoppable.
I, on the other hand, do my best thinking at sunrise. By afternoon, I'm moping like an old spaniel.
So, in my mind, my wife should be playing for the Utah Jazz.
Both are slow starters and strong finishers.
With the midway point of the NBA season here, this is a good time to take stock of what last summer's transaction wrought. There was optimism last October that, despite losing Kyle Korver and Carlos Boozer, the Jazz would be better — and they are.
After 40 games, they are four wins ahead of last year's pace. Chalk it up to the additions of Al Jefferson and Raja Bell, point to the maturation of Deron Williams, or credit Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan.
Whatever the reason, the Jazz have improved. How much? Here's where it gets a little kooky. Going into Saturday's round, they were seven games out of first in the Western Conference standings but seven games from the last playoff spot, too.
Looks like they'll keep everyone wondering until the postseason. Until then, consider the Jazz for what they are: a better-than-average, semi-suspect team. Anything more would be guessing.
In light of back-to-back fast starts by the Jazz against the Knicks and Cavaliers last week, forward C.J. Miles was asked if they had finally overcome their habit of clunky starts.
"I hope so," he said.
Meanwhile, Sloan sounded slightly defensive. "I still think the biggest thing is how you can finish a ballgame," he said. "Yeah, you can get yourself going a little bit, but are you going to have the staying power to be able to finish as the game gets tight? I think everybody can play this game, for the most part, the first 46 minutes. But who are the guys who are gonna be able to make those good decisions and finish the game in the last two minutes when the game is on the line?"
The 2011 Jazz are much like an amateur vacation photo: lovely and bright but a bit out of focus. They are 25th in rebounding but fourth in blocks; 18th in 3-point shooting but ninth in field-goal percentage. They rank 28th in first-quarter scoring but second in fourth-quarter scoring. Then there's the biggest number of all: The Jazz have come back from 10-point deficits to win 12 times this season, including seven games in which they trailed by 15 or more.
They also have that home/road conundrum. They have already lost seven home games, which is as many or more than they lost in 1988-92, 1995-99 and 2007-08. Yet they have 12 road wins, on pace for the third-best road record in their history.
Thus far, the Jazz have yet to establish home dominance. Reminded it's not normal to lose seven home games so early, guard Raja Bell said, "It's not, but I don't really concern myself too much with it. Obviously we need to continue to win at home, and we need to figure that out, but I don't really give it too much thought beyond that."
He may want to. Only one champion in the last 28 years (Houston, 1995) has won fewer home games than 30 — the current Jazz pace.
All things considered, the Jazz have done nicely. If I were an opposing team, I'd never let down my guard, for fear of a knockout punch.
The Jazz have produced a pair of quick starts at home recently, which should make them happy. Still, they may not want to relax just yet. Because if they think they can win titles by starting slowly every game, they're not just sleepy-headed late risers. They're flat-out up in the night.
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