Brian Nicholson, Deseret News
Earl Watson of the Utah Jazz passes around Norris Cole of the Miami Heat during the second half of play at the Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City Friday, March 2, 2012. Jazz won the game in the final seconds, 99-98.

They are a rollercoaster team

Oh wait. We already knew that. But, holy cow, talk about a couple of big-time swings — taking and losing an 18-point lead against Miami before gutting out a win, and then almost digging their way out of a 23-point hole in Dallas. The Jazz are as confused as the recent Utah weather.

Earl Watson & The Cavalry Crew

That would be kind of a cool name for a band, but the Watson-ignited reserves continue to light fires under the Jazz. The backup guard's scoring isn't there — he's only had more than 10 points twice this season (both wins) — but his leadership and playmaking have fired up Utah all season. That made a huge difference in the Miami win and the comeback attempt in Dallas.

"He does a good job with that young group of guys," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "He reads situations. He read where they're going to be open. He can talk to them and communicate without actually talking a lot, just pointing 'em into different areas. He sees everything that they're doing. And they listen to him. It's a great thing for us, and we're going to need that kind of consistent effort on the road."

Speaking of the road …

The Jazz have major problems away from home, where they haven't won since Feb. 12 at Memphis. Since then, they've lost six straight road games.

Here's the thing: The Jazz seem to be close to turning breakdowns into a breakthrough. This isn't horseshoes, but they've been within striking distance in the fourth quarter of five of those most recent road losses.

That's why the Jazz were so encouraged after Saturday's 102-96 loss in Dallas. Scoring 41 points in the fourth to get within five — despite Dirk Nowitzki's 40 points — gave them hope for the rest of this five-game trip.

"I think the way we played at the end of the game, we've got to learn that's what it's going to take to win on the road against anybody," Corbin said. "And we've got to continue to play that way."

Or keep losing.

Drama-free zone

They've had moments of dissatisfaction and they've been disgruntled, sure. Who hasn't? For the most part, though, the Jazz have maintained a positive attitude and seem to get along well. That could bode well as they try to figure out that road problem.

Corbin appreciates the lack of drama (a la Dallas' Lamar Odom situation). He likes being able to just "coach the game."

"Attitudes and off the court issues and those things, it takes your energy away a little bit and (takes) your focus away," Corbin said. "Fortunately for us, we have a good group of guys that's understanding what we're trying to get to and where we're trying to go and what it's going to take for all of us to get there. We pray it continues. We'll continue to work."

Give the rookie a 'D' for effort

Josh Howard has been starting and getting more points and publicity lately, but Alec Burks has also benefited from extra playing time he's received in Raja Bell's absence.

The rookie's defensive game, in particular, has improved. He isn't afraid to back down, either, having mixed it up or annoyed 7-footers Brendan Haywood and Dirk Nowitzki.

"He's learning how to play top scorers in the league," Corbin said of his 20-year-old shooting guard. "(He's learning) how and when he can be physical with guys and not worry about if you make a mistake or if they make a call against him don't back up and just continue to be aggressive. And he's getting a lot better at that."

Like Bell does, Corbin said Burks is becoming better at giving offensive players different looks, varying from falling off to putting the intense pressure and bodying them up.


Today at Cleveland, 5 p.m., ROOT

Jazz capped a five-game winning streak by beating Cavs 113-105 on Jan. 10. Problem is, they're worse and Cleveland's better now.

Wednesday at Charlotte, 5 p.m., ROOT

Bobcats very well could be the worst basketball team in North Carolina at this point. Fortunately for MJ, his Tarheels aren't on the schedule.

Friday at Philadelphia, 5 p.m., ROOT

The Jazz's win over the 76ers early this season ranks as one of their top five victories all season.

Saturday at Chicago, 6 p.m., ROOT

This will be the Utah Jazz's only meeting this season with the Chicago Jazz, featuring Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer.


HOT: Josh Howard

Starting role seems to have done him good. He reached double figures in all four games since All-Star break.

NOT: Al Jefferson

Center had his lowest-scoring offensive output in 21 games Saturday (11 points) and only made 25 of 62 shots last week.

The BIG Stat


Despite his low shooting percentage of late, Al Jefferson continues to be a double-double machine for the Jazz. His 11-point, 10-rebound effort in Saturday's loss was his team-high 18th double-double. Paul Millsap isn't too far behind with 14. Derrick Favors (five) and Enes Kanter (two) are the only other Jazz players with double-doubles.