About Utah: If only the Utah Jazz never had to leave EnergySolutions Arena

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 7 2015 7:47 a.m. MDT

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All right. Finally. After another crummy week in L.A., the Jazz have the Lakers right where they want them:


There's no place like home, especially when it's this home. Because the truth is, over the past quarter century, no place in America, and those parts of Canada choosing to participate, has seen its resident professional basketball team win more often than right here in downtown Salt Lake City.

Since the 1985-86 season, the first year of Stockton-to-Malone, the Jazz have won 772 regular-season NBA games. Nobody else has done that, not even the Lakers, who have won 759 games in Los Angeles over the same span. So they're No. 2.

If the Jazz are looking for something positive to dwell on as Game 3 in their best-of-seven second-round series with the Lakers resumes tonight at EnergySolutions Arena, well, there's something.

They're only returning to the winningest home court in modern basketball.

And as the Denver Nuggets would reluctantly attest, the Jazz are also undefeated at home in this year's playoffs. So far, they're a perfect 3-0 and counting.

The Jazz's reward for beating Denver, of course, was the trip earlier this week to California, which would have been fine if it didn't involve having to play the Lakers.

The Jazz haven't won in L.A. in four years. They've lost eight straight playoff games there, including the two this week. Ma and Pa Joad had better luck in California.

On their home court, the Lakers were at their annoying best. All the fans courtside air-hugging. The Lakers prancing around like they're world champions. And Phil Jackson kept substituting with taller guys than he was taking out. It got as old as the third day at Disneyland.

To add to the aggravation, L.A.'s starting point guard looked suspiciously like a player who used to start for the Jazz until he was released for humanitarian reasons. (Nah, couldn't be; that guy said he was on his way east to New York).

But that was there, and this is here.

Here is where the Jazz win. Here is where they went 32-9 during the just-completed regular season, which, by the way, is right on their average for the past 25 years.

True, NBA teams typically win more when they're playing at home. The homecourt winning percentage for professional basketball annually hovers around 60 percent, compared to 55 percent for pro football and hockey and 54 percent for major league baseball.

But with their .765 home winning percentage, the Jazz are far above the NBA norm. They're above everybody's norm.

In playoff games, they are also well above standard over the past quarter century, with a home record of 77-30, .720.

Only three franchises have fared better percentage-wise: the Bulls (83-24, .776), Lakers (124-37, .770) and Pistons (89-29, .754) — teams that between them have won 15 of the past 24 NBA championships.

The San Antonio Spurs (82-33, .713) have won four NBA titles over the past 25 years and at that still trail the Jazz in home court-playoff winning percentage.

Just why the Jazz are so consistently effective at home, regular season and playoffs is up to anyone's conjecture (although few would probably cite the name "Dick Bavetta"). There's the thinner air at 4,300 feet. There's the rabid fan base without another major professional team to get rabid over. There's the sharply vertical architecture of the arena — "long" in the vernacular of the day — that is conducive to loudness.

Jerry Sloan's agent would no doubt point out that Sloan has personally coached 21 of the 25 seasons in question.

And then there's the legendary Stockton-to-Malone dynasty, followed by the current Williams-to-Boozer era.

The only season in the past 25 years when the Jazz didn't have a winning record at home — and one of only three when they missed the playoffs — was in 2005 when neither of the above-mentioned guard-forward tandems was in residence (they went a measly 18-23 that year).

So, yeah, it's the players.

And one other thing about the Jazz's home floor. It's not in L.A. It's not even close to L.A.

If only the Jazz never had to leave it.

e-mail: benson@desnews.com

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