Utah Jazz: Red-hot team is finally firing on all cylinders

Published: Tuesday, April 2 2013 6:30 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Paul Millsap has a simple way of describing the underlying factor for the Utah Jazz's winning streak.

"I guess," he said, "guys just started hitting shots."

That makes the team's timing as good as its aim.

Five straight victories heading into tonight's big game against Denver have helped the Jazz climb out of the postseason pit of despair and into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

"I hate that it took this long for it to happen, but I think everybody found a rhythm, everybody (is) playing hard, playing their role and just getting the job done," Jazz forward Derrick Favors said. "I guess you can say it just kind of happened at the right time."

It's not just that they happened to start hitting their shots that's encouraging.

Since they were deep in the heart of Texas, the Jazz have been playing the way the organization hoped they would when assembling this temporary cast of characters.

Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors are playing like beasts in the post.

Randy Foye, Mo Williams, Gordon Hayward and Marvin Williams are providing a scoring punch from the perimeter.

That inside-out game is finally working as management envisioned. While their bevy of bigs gets the bulk of the credit for being this team's biggest strength, the Jazz have even set a record for 3-pointers in a season (449, surpassing the 439 treys made in 2009-10).

"With balance comes success," Millsap said. "We feel like we're a more balanced team. It's not just inside game; it's now focused on the outside. Guys are hitting shots for us."

Since being reinvigorated in an overtime loss in San Antonio, the Jazz have scored at least 103 points in six straight games. In their five blowout wins, they've beaten opponents by an average of 12 points while scoring 108.6 an outing.

One day, the Jazz were in the midst of losing 11 of 14 games, irked fans were calling for coach Tyrone Corbin's job and the frazzled franchise was doing a believable impersonation of The Great Post-Jerry Sloan/Deron Williams Freefall of 2011.

The next day, they're looking like they actually belong in the postseason and weren't all packing it in for the busy free-agency period looming this summer, as some skeptics suggested.

"It just seemed like it happened overnight. One game turned into two games, tow turned into three," Millsap said. "The guys' confidence is up right now. We've got both sides clicking, inside and outside. That's primarily why we're winning the games."

Not only that, but the team has endured and evolved, taken advantage of a favorable schedule, jelled with the season on the line and, yes, shocked outsiders who were ready and giddy to give that last seat at the playoff table to the Lakers.

That still could happen, of course.

But, for now, the Jazz are in the position of strength — both in the impressive way they're playing and in the sense that the postseason spot is theirs to lose.

"We continue to play. We understand what it's going to take. It's a long season. Sometimes you're not playing your best basketball," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "As long as you don't quit on yourself, continue to work, stay focused, stay together ... (you'll) have a chance to work it out.

"This group of guys has shown that they're going to stay together, and they want to get better. As a result, we're having better results. We're all in it together."

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