SALT LAKE CITY — Fans at holiday parties and on social media have grumbled about the Utah Jazz’s slower-than-expected start, which had them second-to-last in the Western Conference this past week.
Media types, some of whom predicted the team would be the West’s second-best team, have critiqued this and that about their offense and their defense and their sub-par performance at home and their inconsistency and a lack of a second offensive threat next to Donovan Mitchell and so forth and so on.
And at 12-13, the Jazz are currently in position for a lottery pick instead of the playoffs.
The Jazz’s reaction to outside criticism?
Imagine them plugging their ears.
“We don’t have to listen to outside noise,” Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio said. “We know who we are and we’re really good. Just sometimes people think that we should be at the best level right now when actually you’ve got to be at your best level at the end of the season. We’re getting better every month and that’s what we’re doing.”
Small forward Joe Ingles said something similar after the Jazz slumped to a 2-6 start in games at Vivint Arena before the team’s recent uptick in success.
“The way we play, the way we practice, the things we do behind the scenes that none of you guys see,” Ingles said at the time. “We know we’re doing the right things.”
It’s starting to show on the court.
With their brutal season-opening schedule behind them — at least the brutal part that included a stretch of 12 games in 11 different cities — the Jazz have begun to turn things around.
Tuesday’s 139-105 blowout win over the Spurs was Utah’s third victory in four games.
Rubio’s improved play of late has been one of the key factors in the Jazz’s recent surge. He’s averaged 16 points, 6.3 assists and 4.7 rebounds in the last three games after his 0-for-9 shooting performance at Brooklyn.
“I felt pretty good all along,” he said. “Of course, there were ups and downs, but I feel pretty good, pretty confident, and the wins are coming now, so it feels even better.”
Of course, it will help the Jazz’s chances tremendously if they continue to hit 20 3-pointers a game like they did during their record-setting outing against the Spurs. The addition of Kyle Korver’s sharpshooting skills should help in that regard — a luxury that will also create more space for other Jazz shooters.
“We made some tough shots, but we did move the ball and got some other ones. Any time you have a shooting night like that, you appreciate it,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “(Tuesday) we shot the ball really well and you’re not going to do that all the time, but we were fortunate that the ball went in tonight for a lot of guys.”
Rubio kind of scoffed at the notion that the Jazz were relieved to pick up their first home win since You Know Who and his Boston Celtics visited on Nov. 9.
"It’s not a relief because we know who we are," he said. "We don’t listen to what people say."
Rubio said the Jazz have known all along that as long as they play their game good results would follow.Comment on this story
"It gets a little tiring hearing, 'Oh, you’re not starting the way you’re supposed to,'" Rubio said. "Nobody tells us how we’ve got to be. It’s us who raised the level. There's nobody else more hard on us than ourselves. We’ve (gone) in that room and we talked and we got better. Yesterday was a big example of what we’re doing. We’re getting better every game."
They'll have another test Thursday in a TNT-televised showdown against the Houston Rockets, who are also looking to match lofty expectations after a slow 11-12 start.