SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz got back to business Thursday following a rare two-day layoff with a spirited two-hour practice at the Zions Bank Basketball Center.
For the only time all season — aside from next month’s All-Star break — the Jazz have four days off in between games. (They don't play between Monday night’s win over Miami and Saturday’s game against Cleveland.)
It’s nearly the halfway point of the season and all things considered, the Jazz are pretty happy with where they stand.
“To be 21-19 and going into the halfway point and having as many road games as anyone in the league, we’ve showed some good growth,’’ said coach Tyrone Corbin. “We’re not exactly where we want to be, but we’re within range to be in position to get ourselves in the playoffs to take a good run with the homestand we have coming up.’’
The Jazz play 14 of their next 19 games at home and feel they can put themselves in solid position for the playoffs if they keep up their recent strong play, which has seen them win six of eight games since the start of January.
“We’re trying to make a playoff push and try to get as high as possible in the standings,’’ said Paul Millsap. "I feel like we’re making strides and we turned that corner to be that team we expected at the start of the season. We had our little down moment with our injuries earlier in the season, but we’re right there. We’re pushing forward and now we’re pretty healthy.’’
MOVIN’ UP: Al Jefferson says he gets away from basketball completely when he has a couple days off like the Jazz did Tuesday and Wednesday. So he was surprised with what transpired in the NBA in two days.
“When I left on Monday night we were in ninth place and came back this morning and we’re in seventh, so it was like, 'oh wow,'’’ Jefferson said.
Yes, while the Jazz were off, they climbed a couple of spots in the Western Conference standings.
The two teams directly ahead of them in the standings each lost two games. Portland was beaten at home by Cleveland Wednesday night after losing in overtime at Denver the night before, while Houston lost to the Clippers at home Tuesday and Mavericks on the road Wednesday.
KEEPING TRACK: Unlike some teams that only worry about themselves, the Jazz keep track of the standings and update them every day in the locker room.
“You’ve got to know where you are,’’ said Corbin. “Sometimes you may lose by a large margin and think it’s the end of the world. Well it’s one loss. Then you may win a couple on the road and think you have some space, but everyone’s right there next to you.
“The more you’re aware of where you are, the more we have an understanding of how important every game is and to take care of business at hand.’’
JAZZ NOTES: A familiar face will be in town Saturday night when the Cleveland Cavaliers come to EnergySolutions Arena: former Jazzman C.J. Miles. ... Cleveland comes in with a 10-31 record after upsetting Portland on the road Wednesday. ... After Saturday’s game, the Jazz won’t play again until Wednesday when Washington comes to town.