Utah Jazz are suddenly putting it together — at home, on the road, offensively and defensively
SALT LAKE CITY — On Sunday, most of the buzz in Los Angeles was focused on figuring out what is wrong with the Lakers.
And best wishes to those trying to get that mess sorted out.
A far different question has emerged regarding the other team that happened to play in the Staples Center that night.
What has become so right with the Utah Jazz?
Without their biggest defensive presence last Wednesday, the Derrick Favors-less Jazz clamped down for their stingiest game of the season in an 87-81 win over a resurgent Orlando Magic squad.
Without their most consistent offensive player on Friday, the Al Jefferson-less Jazz rallied together for their highest-scoring regulation game of the season in a 131-99 rout of the Toronto Raptors.
Without a noteworthy victory over a decent team on the road to their credit before Sunday, the relentless Jazz stormed into Staples Center and continued their surprising domination over the Los Angeles Lakers.
OK, so maybe they still don't have a road win over a decent team. Laker coach Mike D'Antoni did admit this about his 9-12 L.A. squad, "We're not very good right now."
But the point remains the same.
The Jazz, now 12-10, are adapting to game situations, both outwitting and outplaying opponents with different styles.
They're showing strong cohesion and chemistry.
They're suddenly putting it together — from the inside-out — after a shaky start to the 2012-13 season.
Topping that, not only are they having "fun," as Big Al called it, but they've strung together three straight victories since a last-second loss at home last Monday was the final blow in a three-game losing streak.
In other words, unheralded Utah is once again the polar opposite of star-studded Los Angeles.
"We don't have no superstars on this team. We have some great players, but we don't have a guy like Kobe (Bryant), who can just take over the game," Jazz center Al Jefferson said after Sunday's 117-110 win over the Lakers.
"So, we have to play together on the defensive end and the offensive end," he continued. "The way they (my teammates) moved the ball Friday was amazing to watch on the outside looking in, so when I got back into the lineup (Sunday) I wanted to make sure that kept going. And when you do it that way, everybody's going to find their shots."
They're taking and making those shots, too.
Utah stroked and slammed in a combined 51.7 percent, averaged 124 points, 28.5 assists and had nine players hit double-digit scoring in its weekend wins over the Raptors and Lakers.
If they can continue that high level of offensive mastery against the San Antonio Spurs in Wednesday night's late ESPN game and during the ensuing stretch with five-of-six road games, you'll really know they're onto something.
"I think we are hitting our stride right now," Jazz forward DeMarre Carroll said. "Everybody's trusting each other on defense. Everybody's running to the next man. People are taking charges. We're getting the ball to Big Al. I think we're playing very well right now, and the sky's the limit for this team."
Ironically, the Jazz credited their only home loss of the season for helping them snap back with a rare winning streak.
"We felt like we let one get away from us then," Jazz forward Paul Millsap said, referring to the Jazz's frustrating 105-104 setback to the Clippers on Dec. 3 in which Utah blew a 14-point lead.
"It just made us more hungry to get out there and win more games," Millsap added. "That was a wake-up call for us."
Coach Tyrone Corbin has been impressed with how his squad has stuck together instead of drifting apart during challenging times — an attitude that helped the Jazz withstand Laker charges Sunday and burst to a 12-10 record after dipping below .500 a week ago.
"This is a high-character group of guys. They have a lot of pride and they've demonstrated that all year long," Corbin said. "When we have a disappointing performance or disappointing loss like we did with the Clipper loss at home, the guys have been doing a great job of coming back and just learning every night."
The Jazz have flummoxed opposing defenses by hitting outside shots, clearing up space for the bigs to work on the inside.
Offensive flow has been high.
Egos have been low.
Guys like Millsap and Gordon Hayward have busted through slumps. Marvin Williams, Enes Kanter and Carroll have provided energetic and positive performances in their various roles. Jamaal Tinsley has returned as a solid traffic-director off the bench. Jeremy Evans has contributed with some dazzling dunks and out-of-nowhere blocks.
Meanwhile, Jefferson and Mo Williams continue to click, especially on the offensive side.
"When D-Fav gets back, we're going to be even stronger," Carroll said. "That's the biggest thing — everybody's just getting valuable playing time now, so at the end of the season anything can happen."
In the current moment, there's a whole lot of right going on at the same time for Utah.
Score some wins for good old-fashioned team play.
Maybe somebody in Los Angeles should pay attention to that missing detail.
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