The Jazz have ramped up both offensively and defensively. That point differential of 9 points per game is right up with Boston's +9.5. Of course they've done it over the entire season and not just the last 8 games.
For the past few seasons, the Jazz have almost always started out the year well and then had varying degrees of success after that. But they always start out well. They are 11-7 this season through 18. They were 11-7 through 18 last season. For 2008 they were 13-5. And for 2007 they jumped out to a 14-4 mark.
So, was that 4-6 mark just getting the losses out of the way early? There's no doubt that they should have won at least 2-3 of those after getting huge leads and giving the game away.
Were things evening out or was there a turning point? I think there's a little of both.
There's no doubt that the Jazz were playing atrocious for those first 10 games. They were lost on defense and taking a bunch of jumpers on offense.
Something did seem to click though when Deron had to return home to take care of his ailing daughter. The Jazz were already without CJ and Korver. Suddenly, the rotation got a lot tighter and Eric Maynor and Wes Matthews were thrust into the starting lineup. It sure seemed like they started playing as a team then. That's not any inference that Deron was a problem. But maybe they relied on him a bit too much and now had to find a way to work together as a team again?
The Jazz were in danger last night of blowing a huge lead at home to the Pacers. Everything they had working for them in the first quarter when they built a 19-point lead went away for the next 2 3/4 quarters. They withheld the late charge by the Pacers and never relinquished the lead. There wasn't any one person that was responsible for it, it was all team.
So that's not really a preview of tonight's game against Minnesota. But it does apply in part because the Jazz, for whatever reason, have had some problems with the Timberwolves. We just always seem to struggle against them.
But tonight, they'll have Kevin Love back. If the Jazz don't want to lose any momentum that they've had from playing at home so much, they'll have to win this game as a team.
It will start with shutting down Minnesota's offense. They're at the bottom of the league in efficiency and points per game. Combine that with a defense that is nearly as bad and you're not going to have a lot of success. They're even getting out-rebounded which doesn't seem right. Love has a been out all season until last night, but they're still normally a good rebounding team. So with that, if the Jazz start taking a lot of jumpers again, they could be in for another battle because they're not going to get many second chances.
They need to take care of business tonight and not go down to a 2-win team.