This season is two games in, and some people (national writers, national experts, national fans, local writers, local experts, local fans, non-fans, werewolves?) are trying to speculate on what's happening in Utah Jazz land. If we are just looking at the two regular season games, the Jazz have zero wins in two tries. Moving beyond wins and losses the Jazz have two close losses. One at home, and one on the road. Both against a Western Conference opponent (losing at home to the Oklahoma City Thunder 101-98; and on the road to the Phoenix Suns 87-84) -- with a cumulative margin of loss of only -6 points.
Both games were exciting. The Jazz hung tough with a Western Conference contender, and nearly won a game on the road against a Western Conference basement dweller (projected for this season). Both games had curious absences, no Russell Westbrook, no Hasheem Thabeet (suspension), no Goran Dragic for most of the second half, and for the Jazz, well, no Trey Burke, Brandon Rush, Marvin Williams, Jeremy Evans, or Andris Biedrins.
Would a Westbrook or Dragic make more of an impact on the game than that collection for the Jazz? I honestly do not know, our bench is very weak and these five players for the Jazz would all be threats to be in head coach Tyrone Corbin's rotation when healthy or maybe start? If you remove the injuries from both teams, and ignore the home advantage and road difficulties you have a young team that barely lost two games.
A few more free throws and the Jazz are 2-0 to start the season.
Does it make you feel better to lose close games? Does it make you feel better to lose to a really good team without their second best player? Or does that mean little when you lose to a really bad team that played at least part of the game without Goran Dragic and Emeka Okafor?
It's going to be a funny season this year where we hope our young guys eventually break through and succeed. And at times this year they will, and it will be reflective on the scoreboard at the end of the game. Of course, sometimes we're going to get killed. There's no way the Jazz are going to lose each game by a 3 point margin (on average). Jazz fans have been treated to some good and some bad early on; but we need to get ready to temper our eventual wins this season against the butt kickings we're also going to get this year. (Maybe even today against the Houston Rockets on the second night of our first back to back set of the year?)
It's my impression that the Jazz will have an up and down year. But I don't think we can tell anything from the last 2 games. We can't use such a small sample size to predict that this season will be a lost season. You never know what a season can hold -- just like the 2004-2005 season for example, the Jazz went 2-0 to start; then went 7-3 after the first 10 games of the season. The team would win only 19 more games in the final 72.
Just take a look for yourselves!
|First 2 Games||First 10 Games||Full Season||Win% Early Distortion|
|Season||W||L||%||W||L||%||W||L||%||2 --> Season||10 --> Season|
Over the last decade the Jazz win 60% of their first 2 games of the season, but ultimately that winning percentage is +6.1% higher than the cumulative regular season winning %. Over the first ten days that mark falls down to 59.0 win%, which is basically the same number, and still +5.1% better.
By those values the Jazz usually have started the season better than they finish. IS that the case for this year as well?
We can't know until the season is over, but this season will be like no other. (No Jazz team has been led by so many lotto picks before, with such a bad bench before)
What we DO know is that this will be the third season in four years where the team starts off 0-2. Let's drill a little bit deeper and look at the last five season starts:
- This year: two close losses, average margin of defeat is 3 points -- young team playing without 5 rotation guys, including our starting point guard / potential ROY candidate in Trey Burke
- Last year: split the games, Mo Williams went #MOLO in the third quarter to salvage a sure loss in the home opener against the Dallas Mavericks, a 19 point win; then loses to the New Orleans Hornets / (pre- Pelicans) on a Grievis Vasquez runner with time running out
- Two years ago: lose both games -- blown out by the Los Angeles Lakers playing their third game in three nights (-25 points margin); then blown out by the Denver Nuggets by 17. Both road games. Both really bad starts. That team still managed to make the playoffs
- Three years ago: lose both games -- blown out by the Denver Nuggets by 22; then blown out by the Phoenix Suns by 16. That team would still win 7 of their first 10 games, and 15 of their first 20. And then not make the playoffs, trade their star player Deron Williams -- but not before losing their Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan.
- Four years ago: split the games, lost to the Denver Nuggets by 9 points, again in their gym like the previous two years; then beat the Los Angeles Clippers 13.
If you tried to write the season story for those these last five years after the second game of the season you'd get some pretty interesting stories. Most likely all of them are inaccurate. The team has four blow out losses within the first two games of every season, over the last five seasons (40% chance). It did not happen this year.
We did not win a game this year (20% chance), but it's not like we have been killing it to start the seasons the last five years.
We did have two close games, regardless of homecourt, injuries, talent, or whatever . . . losing a close game is better in my mind than losing a blowout.
It indicates that on a given night we are only a few mistakes away from victory. And these mistakes will persist through the season (that's a prediction I think we all can assume); but our younger guys have to learn from these mistakes and learn what it takes to win. Being on a vet team and seeing occasional wins being handed to them when they sat on the bench did not make them better. (It's not the same thing as the San Antonio Spurs starting Kawhi Leonard and him contributing to wins, or the Indiana Pacers and Paul George . . . )
It's going to be a learning year, but going 0-2 is not the end of the world. If anything, it's just the very beginning of a brave new one for this Jazz franchise.