Utah Jazz notebook: Team proving the notion of 'Home Sweet Home'

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 6 2015 11:29 a.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz seem to have developed somewhat of a split personality when it comes to playing at home as opposed to playing on the road.

At EnergySolutions Arena, they're a ferocious team that fiercely defends its home court, feeding off their frenzied fans to grab gritty wins over the 76ers and Hornets.

But away from home, they've been much more meek and mild, losing by lopsided margins of 25, 17 and 15 points to the Lakers, Nuggets and Spurs, respectively, in their first three road trips of the season.

Every team in the NBA has a much higher comfort level at home, obviously — after all, that's why it's called the "home-court advantage" — but it's been even more pronounced for the Jazz through their first five games of the season.

"Obviously, you'd like to take care of your home business," said Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin. "You'd like to win all your games. But right now, this is where we are, we're at home and you feel better about being at home.

You're more familiar with your surroundings. You've got a home crowd that will boost us up if we get into a lull during the course of the game.

"But you've still got to play the game. You can't just expect because you're at home you're going to win the game. You've got to go out and take it.

"We want to continue to grow, whether it's at home or on the road," Corbin said. "Obviously, you feel better about playing at home than you do sometimes on the road, but we're going to have to play road games. So you have to make sure that you understand how important the home games are, first of all, and then get better as a team to give yourself a chance to win on the road."

TRADING PLACES: The last few seasons, whenever the Jazz faced the Hornets, all the buzz was about the point guard matchup between Utah's Deron Williams and New Orleans' Chris Paul, two of the league's best at their position.

That buzz might still be heard in New Jersey or Los Angeles these days, but it will no longer be heard in Salt Lake City. Williams was traded away last February to the Nets, and Paul was dealt to the Clippers in December.

"I think it just shows how the NBA works — it's a business," said Jazz second-year forward Gordon Hayward. "Everything can change in a matter of seconds."

HOME SWEET HOME: Monday night's game marks the beginning of a stretch where the Jazz will play 13 of 16 games at home, giving them a great opportunity to fatten up their win-loss record before facing a glut of road games from early February through mid-March.

"We do have an opportunity to take advantage of a lot of home games in a row," Corbin said, "but at some point it's going to flip and we've got to get back out there on the road, so you've got to be ready to play every night."

THE NAME OF THE GAME: Jazz players agree that the key ingredient for success this season will be their ability to come up with a consistent defensive performance every time they take the court.

"We have to defend, first and foremost," said Hayward. "I think that's got to be our calling card. If we can defend, then we can stay in games and have a shot at the end, so that's what we've got to do."

Starting center Al Jefferson agreed, and the Jazz held the Hornets to just 16 fourth-quarter points in Monday's win.

"It always starts on the defensive end," he said. "I think our offense is gonna come along and get better and better, but the defense is really going to play a big part in it. ... The shots are going to go in and they're going to come out, so I'm really not concerned about the offense, but the defense is something that we can control."

WHAT A PAIN: Jefferson, who sat out last Friday's victory over Philadelphia and almost didn't play Saturday because of a sore ankle, says he's feeling much better now that his pain meds have kicked in.

"As long as I'm not limping, I can play through pain," he said. "(The medication) got in right before the (San Antonio) game because when I left the hotel, I didn't think I was going to play Saturday. But when I got to the game and warmed up, it felt good and gave it a go."

Gave it a go to the tune of 21 points and 11 rebounds, both season highs, against the Spurs in what was by far the best performance by a Jazz player on that Texas trip.

And Monday night, he followed that up with a solid 22-point, 6-rebound effort which also included a couple of assists, a steal and a blocked shot.

NOT COMING UP ROSES: Utah point guard Devin Harris played his college ball at the University of Wisconsin. And, asked for his prediction on Monday evening's Rose Bowl matchup between his Badgers and the Oregon Ducks, Harris didn't even have to think twice about it.

"Badgers win by 14," he said without hesitation.

Hopefully, he didn't wager too many Skittles or lunches on the outcome — Wisconsin lost, 45-38.

Email: rhollis@desnews.com

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