In the beginning of the year it was our weakness and now it’s maybe our strength. —Jazz guard Ricky Rubio
SALT LAKE CITY — Over the first three months of the season, the Utah Jazz were one of the worst road teams in the NBA. After losing to Atlanta on Jan. 22, the Jazz were a woeful 5-19 in road games and tied with the Hawks for the worst road record in the league.
Since that bad 14-point loss, there hasn’t been a better road team in the NBA.
Starting with a comeback 98-95 overtime win over Detroit on Jan. 24, the Jazz have reeled off eight straight road victories. They beat current Eastern Conference leader Toronto two nights later and then swept a four-game road trip at Phoenix, San Antonio, New Orleans and Memphis in early February. Right before the All-Star break the Jazz won at Portland and then last weekend they won at Sacramento.
Now, after easing past Orlando Monday night, the Jazz are heading back out on the road for three games beginning at Indiana Wednesday night (5 p.m.) at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse. They’ll hit Memphis Friday night and New Orleans Sunday afternoon.
“We know being on the road is not easy, but we’re learning,” said Jazz guard Ricky Rubio. “In the beginning of the year it was our weakness and now it’s maybe our strength.”
“We feel like we can beat anyone,” said Rudy Gobert when asked about playing on the road. “Usually it’s about us. We’ve got to stay focused, keep getting better and come out every night with a mindset to win.”
Coach Quin Snyder has been thrilled with his team’s road performance of late, but doesn’t want to differentiate between home and road games.
“We’ve done a good job of not looking ahead on the road and taking each game for what it is,” he said. “As much as anything I don’t want to get hung up on home or road and just to focus on playing well. If we do that, hopefully we’ll compete and do well and be in games with a chance to win.”
Snyder also knows it won’t be easy to keep the road streak alive going against the Pacers, who currently hold the No. 4 spot in the Eastern Conference with a 37-27 record. In mid-January, the Pacers took a 109-94 victory over the Jazz at Vivint Arena. And since then, they’ve been one of the league’s better teams, going 13-7.
“We’re going to have a very difficult game at Indiana,” Snyder said. “We know that they played well against us here and beat us pretty good.”
The Pacers are led by guard Victor Oladipo, who averages 24.0 points per game. The rest of the lineup is quite balanced with forward Bojan Bogdanovic (14.3 ppg), center Myles Turner (13.2 ppg), point guard Darren Collison (12.8 ppg) — who's missed Indiana's last 10 games after having arthoscopic knee surgery but is expected back soon — and forward Thaddeus Young (11.8 ppg).
Big man Domantas Sabonis, who came over in the Paul George trade with Oladipo, is averaging 12.0 points and a team-high 8.2 rebounds off the bench.
JAZZ NOTES: Following this road trip, the Jazz will come home for four straight home games against teams with losing records — Detroit, Phoenix, Sacramento and Atlanta. Utah still sits in the No. 10 spot in the West and is having a hard time catching the teams just ahead of them in the standings. While Utah is 8-2 in its last 10 games, Portland is 9-1, New Orleans is 8-2 and Denver and the Clippers are 7-3. Gobert had his fourth double-double in last five games and third straight with 21 points and 17 rebounds Monday night. Since joining the Jazz on Feb. 10, Jae Crowder had scored in double figures eight straight games, but he had an off-night Monday, going 1 for 9 for four points. Royce O’Neale hurt his left shoulder in the first half Monday, but afterward with an icepack on his shoulder, said it was “a little sore, but I’ll be all right.”