Since then the bench has crawled out of the cellar to contribute with an unlikely new-found chemistry among an even more unlikely lineup of a pair of aces, a stroker, and 14 feet of frontcourt (Watson, Price, Miles, Elson, Fesenko).
The offense has begun to find it's stride, and while the poor effort on the glass has now found it's way to the top of the list, the Jazz have somehow found their way to better winning percentage today than any they've had to end any season this decade, at a 10-5 .667.
Despite a difficult early season schedule Utah is hanging tough, keeping the leaders in sight. So where are the Jazz getting the job done?
It's pretty stark. The Jazz are clutch.
I charted the Jazz's scoring in every quarter of every win and loss through the first 15 games. When they win, which is two-thirds of the time, they do it by coming up big in the fourth. Utah has started out slowly several times, managing a mere 20 points or less seven times, yet are 4-3 in those games.
Twice they put up a paltry 13 in the first quarter. They won both of those games, making the final full quarter of each of those games their highest scoring one, dropping 42 on the Heat's number one defense to send it to OT, and 33 on the Bobcats in the fourth and final stanza.
Scoring by quarter in wins
Scoring by quarter in losses
1st 21.0 (-1.6, or the difference between a made or missed trip to the free throw line)
2nd 22.4 (+0.0, same as it ever was, or consistently mediocre)
3rd 25.8 (-1.7, less than a single made layup away from winning the 3rd regularly)
Through three quarters Utah is barely winning or losing these bouts at a scoring differential of 3.3, a shade over a single possession, the difference between a couple of bounces in the wins over the losses. But here's the difference-maker, where the Jazz are closing out contests; the fourth quarter. Scoring by quarter:
That's a massive differential, nearly a double-digit one, at +9.2 in wins versus ducks.
That's clutch defense and offense in W's. That's a +63 point differential in Utah's favor in the 4th Q over the course of the 15 games the Jazz have played thus far.
While Utah is putting up an nearly 27 points per-fourth-quarter overall, they are holding opponents to less than 23 points per, in the quarter that counts. Six times, or 40% of their games, the Jazz have won the fourth quarter by double-digits, winning every one of those showdowns.
Yes, there are a great many areas this Jazz team can still improve upon. However, that they can win when it counts is a refreshing breath of air from years past. It means that as they continue to work on and shore up those gaps in their game the ceiling for this squad will continue to rise.
We should all appreciate the astounding level of basketball this Utah team has been playing in the final period. They are feasting on teams in the fourth quarter, and for that we can all be grateful. Just you wait until they get their 6'11" Turkey back in the