That’s an idiom that we’ve all heard and repeated at some stage or another. It’s also a pretty concise understanding of this Jazz team. Usually, the traditional characteristics of the Utah Jazz were: Jerry Sloan getting T’d up; pick and rolls; physical defense; and being nearly impossible to defeat at home. Those characteristics may no longer be valid.
I’m unable to google a list of coaching technical fouls for this season – but if Sloan was getting them I’m sure the media would be able to tell me about it. Utah does run pick and rolls still, it’s a major component of their offense. The physicality of the defense is a far cry from the 80’s and 90’s when you could get away with a lot more (like Adam Keefe tackling cutters even before they got the ball). The home invulnerability also seems to be receding quite a bit this season as well.
That’s just an idea though, as this season the Jazz have lost 8 games at home already (some games given up to less than amazing talent, at that). Last season the Jazz only lost 8 games at home. Furthermore, two seasons ago the Jazz only lost 4 games at home. I had to look this up to see if Utah was getting worse at home – and curiously getting better on the road. Click on to read the results and my analysis.
Since the DeltaCenter (now Energy Solutions Arena) was erected, it has stood as an edifice of distinct provincialism. Visiting opponents have grown accustomed to the bitter sting of defeat there. In it’s first season (1991-1992) the Jazz held a ridiculous 37-4 record in the DeltaCenter. That’s a winning percentage of 90.2%. The Jazz are an all-time 565-187 in this building. That’s a winning percentage of better than 75%. This includes those Carlos Arroyo / Mikki Moore years. It does not need to be said that the Jazz lose at home even more infrequently during the playoffs.
During that same period of time, the Jazz have limped to a 365-383 record on the road (48.8%). The standard of good teams is the ability to win on the road. This is true of the Jazz as well, as they won 27 road games (65.9 winning %) in 1994-1995 – essentially the year they became true contenders. This started a trend of 7 years in a row with a road winning percentage of at least 51.2%. During this span the Jazz went to the Western Conference Finals 5 times. Correlation does not effectively lead to causation; but it remains to be seen that winning on the road is a hallmark of a good team.
This season Utah is 14-12 on the road, this is a winning percentage of 53.8%. This is the highest winning percentage on the road that the Jazz have had since 2000-2001. That was back when Stockton and Malone were still running a veteran heavy squad that had the will to win on the road. Obviously this is a good sign, as the Jazz have climbed up from 19.5% to 53.8% over the Deron Williams era. (counting the year before he came for dramatic effect here)
Utah is making a name for itself by shedding the old notion of not being able to win outside of the friendly confines of their home court. This has come with increased talent, maturity and focus. Additionally with all the jersey changing this year, the Jazz sometimes wear road jerseys at home, and vice versa (due to heritage nights) – maybe this has something to do with it? Home is where the heart is, and the Jazz have been playing with more heart on the road than in previous seasons. You only need to go ask the Blazers about that. More seriously, though, is the fact that the Jazz *are* posting the second lowest home winning percentage in the Deron Williams era. Of course, that’s still only a 73.3% mark.
Utah, since they started playing in their relatively new 19k capacity arena, has held a significantly greater winning percentage at home than on the road: 75.1% to 48.8%. That’s a difference of 26.3% in favor of winning at home over the 19 years the DeltaCenter has stood. Even in those Stockton and Malone / NBA Finals seasons the Jazz managed to have a ridiculously high winning percentage differential – while still winning 26 games on the road each season. This season the Jazz winning percentage difference is only 19.5% in favor of winning at home.
Before the psychology of this young team might have been "we don’t need to give it all on the road, because we’ll make it up at home". This season the psychology may be "we need to really give it our all, and make sure we win on the road", at the expense of winning at home. Teams can’t take winning at home for granted. Lest of all this Jazz team that may actually have a chance of HOSTING a 1st round series for the first time since Ostertag was starting.
There are only 26 games left this season, and I’m encouraged by this new found ability to win on the road. But in order to remain among the best in the West, the Jazz need to bring the same focus, effort and heart at home as well as on the road.
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