We feel like we've done great things, but we're only 10th in the West. We're still not where we want to be. —Jazz center Rudy Gobert
SALT LAKE CITY — In Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder's mind, defining what brings on momentum is impossible.
Does confidence breed momentum, or is it the other way around? With all the ups and downs that take place in the course of a given game, can one victory bring momentum?
However momentum might be defined, the Jazz find themselves at an interesting place as they get ready to face the Portland Trail Blazers Friday night at Vivint Arena in their first game since Valentine's Day after the All-Star break. On one hand, they're the hottest team in the NBA, having won 11 contests in a row, but did the break do anything to get them out of their groove?
Although he doesn't want to lose, in a sense, Snyder hopes the break got his players out of thinking about the streak.
"To the extent that winning begets winning, hopefully that's the case, because usually if you're winning you're playing well," he said Thursday after the team practiced at Zions Bank Basketball Campus, "but at the same time, if you get thinking about (the) streak and all those things, hopefully that went away with All-Star break. We just need to play good basketball."
According to Rudy Gobert, Snyder has emphasized not getting complacent, as the Frenchman acknowledged it's "human nature" to perhaps do so given that the team hasn't lost since Jan. 22.
"We feel like we've done great things, but we're only 10th in the West," he said. "We're still not where we want to be."
A few moments later, Gobert brought up the word "playoffs," a destination that seemed all but unreachable before the streak began with a Jan. 24 win over the Detroit Pistons, even if he did tweet, "we will be fine" on Jan. 5 after Utah dropped to 16-23.
As it stood entering Thursday, the Jazz were a game back of the ninth-place LA Clippers, 1.5 behind the eighth-place New Orleans Pelicans and just 2.5 back of the fifth-place Oklahoma City Thunder.
"I think if we ever get comfortable, we should look at the rankings and be like, 'Uh-oh, we're not even a playoff team right now,'" Gobert said. "I think we just want to keep winning, and if we make the playoffs, whoever we play, we'll go out there and try to beat them."
Concerning Friday's tilt, Utah and Portland are familiar with each other, having last played Feb. 11. In that contest, a one-point Blazers lead at halftime turned into an 18-point Jazz edge at the end of the third quarter thanks to a bunch of great Utah defense turning into a lot of easy offense.
One key potential difference Friday from that game less than two weeks ago could be the presence of Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio. The Portland contest marked the first of three the Spaniard missed before the All-Star break because of hip soreness, but he has returned to practice.
As of Thursday afternoon, he was officially listed as questionable, but Snyder had positive things to say about the floor general's progress.
"Ricky looked good," Snyder said Thursday. "He hadn't played in a little while. They're still monitoring his movement in his hip and making sure that he's in a good place. He wouldn't be out there if he wasn't taking the next step. We'll see how he responds from today's practice. I think he's excited to be back out there."
Entering Thursday, the Blazers were tied for sixth in the Western Conference with the Denver Nuggets at 32-26, a half-game back of the Thunder and a half-game up on the Pelicans.