SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz have certainly started to take advantage of an end to their regular season schedule that was perceived by many to be a rather easy road.
With last Tuesday’s contest against the Phoenix Suns marking the beginning of a 14-game stretch in which the Jazz would play just one team above .500, they’ve won their first three by an average of nearly 18 points. That includes Saturday night’s victory against the Brooklyn Nets, the one squad Utah will play before April 9 that has won more games than it has lost this season.
In the three wins, the Jazz scored 120 points once and 114 points twice, while none of the three opponents surpassed the 100-point mark (the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday scored exactly 100).
The victories have come after three losses in Utah’s previous four games.
“I think our style has been to play really good defense and then find some ways to get some offensive runs going,” said Kyle Korver after Saturday’s win. “We’ve done that the last few games, and I think closing out games has been key for us...we’re doing all right. We’re doing better.”
Now the Jazz face an interesting weeklong challenge, as they’ll go on a four-game Eastern Conference road trip that is typically seen as tough, but they’ll be playing four of the five worst teams in the conference.
The group, which consists of the Washington Wizards (Monday), New York Knicks (Wednesday), Atlanta Hawks (Thursday) and Chicago Bulls (Saturday), had a combined winning percentage of less than 31 entering Sunday’s games.
Can Utah carry any momentum it may have gained over the last few days into the trip?
Donovan Mitchell, for one, cautioned against that idea.
“Each game’s its own thing right now,” he said after Saturday’s win. “I would say in the beginning of the year, I guess you could say it’s a little bit different, but right now, each game’s its own game, because we played a different team today than we play against Washington in a different space, and when we go to New York, it’s a different team as well. We’ve just got to take it one game at a time.”
Korver noted after Saturday’s contest that during the trip, the Jazz will reach the point in which there will be fewer than 10 games remaining in the regular season (they’ve got 13 left heading into Monday).
“That’s when you want your habits to be sharp,” he said. “You want to be mentally fresh as long as you can, so it’ll be good to go on a road trip, play a couple of good teams and kind of just bunker down and get our minds right.”
After beating the Timberwolves last Thursday night, Utah moved into sixth in the Western Conference standings, but despite Saturday’s win, the club moved back to seventh entering Sunday thanks to victories that night and Friday by the San Antonio Spurs.1 comment on this story
Entering Sunday, the Jazz were a half-game up on the eighth-place LA Clippers but just 1.5 games back of the fifth-place Oklahoma City Thunder following their Saturday loss to the Golden State Warriors.
Holding a 40-29 record, Utah will have a chance on Monday to clinch at least a .500 mark for the season against the Wizards, the last team in the NBA they have yet to play this season. Washington is in an interesting spot, as it entered Sunday 11th in the East with a 30-40 record, but at three games back of the eighth-place Miami Heat, there is still a glimmer of hope it can reach the playoffs.