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C-C-C-C-Combo Breaker Edition - The Downbeat - #660

Tonight the Utah Jazz play host to the Los Angeles Lakers. If you haven’t been following things that closely, the Jazz aren’t necessarily blowing teams out, but they do have a 5 game win streak on the line. The Lakers, usually a team that treats us like kid brothers, are often the team that breaks up our streaks. In 2009-2010 the Jazz ran off a very impressive 9 game win streak, and also won 13 times in 14 games. Guess which team broke our streak? It was the Los Angeles Lakers, with a 96-81 win on our own home court. LA also broke a smaller streak another time that very same season. There are other examples in other seasons of streaks ending to the Lakers; though, recently we seem to crash upon the rocks that are the Oklahoma City Thunder now more than any other team. I did talk about streaks a bit back in the last Sunday Syncopation, so I’m not going to go into it any longer here. Ultimately though, the Lakers are more than just a ‘big brother’ franchise to us, they are also Jazz momentum c-c-c-c-combo breakers.

Last night the Cleveland Cavaliers scored 105 points against the Jazz. Yes, their final score was augmented somewhat by overzealous officiating (72 free throw attempts for the game?); but coming into Salt Lake City the Cavs were only averaging 94.8 points per game. That is fully over 10 more points than normal. Furthermore, letting them score 105 breaks the streak the Jazz had going where our defense kept the other team under 105 points, a six game streak. The last time we surrendered 105+ points in a game was back in the first week of the season when we went all "Magniot Line defense" on Nene and his Nuggets. Our defense has improved, but in the games it looks improved in, we haven’t had to face a legit series of scoring bigs. We’ll get two, tonight, in Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.

As Jazz fans, for the most part, our pure hearts get twisted and we almost feed off of perceived slights (real or imagined) and the national media overlooking our team. That said, our recent play has been turning heads.

  • ESPN’s Marc Stein puts is at #18 (+10 spots)
  • ESPN’s John Hollinger has us at #20 (+3 spots in just one night)
  • SI’s Britt Robson has Utah at #14 (+12 spots!!)
  • Matt Moore at CBS Sports’ Eye on Basketball Blog has the Jazz at #18 (+10 spots)
  • Fox Sports’ Sam Amico has the Jazz at #16 (+8 spots)
  • Dime Magazine’s Sean Sweeney has us at #15 (+10 spots)
  • Inside Hoops has us at #17

Heck, even the NBA can’t pretend we’re not winning games – they have us at #17 (+9 spots). Most all of these places had the Jazz in the bottom third in the league last week (and to start the season). Perhaps we’ll return there in a month or so – but right now our Jazz are winning some games we shouldn’t be if you look at wins and losses ‘on paper’. Rankings aside, gotta bring this back to the fans. Sometimes we do thrive on feeling specifically under-talked about. Some of our best players played best with a chip on their shoulders as well (Deron Williams, Karl Malone). How about in this stealth-rebuilding year we also show up to games a bit more in support of a team doing well? (I’m talkin to you, Joe Casual Fan) Last night there were way more green colored, empty, seats than I am used to seeing.

Speaking of combo breakers and having a reason to watch games – we get to see Gordon Hayward play against the Lakers again! (Insert Kermit the Frog style flailing arms "yaaaayyyyy!" style expression here) Hayward isn’t having the perfect season so far, but he’s still averaging 9 points / 4 assists / 3 rebounds / 1 block – in 27 mpg. Looking at his splits, he seems to perform well against the Pacific Division; and gets up for the Lakers. He shoots 59.1 fg%, 42.9 3pt%, and 88.9 ft% against them. I’m sure some of the Lakers will know who he is this time around. You know . . . because of what happened last time:

We can’t mention combo breakers without mentioning our nemesis Kobe Bryant. Here’s a bit of trivia: over his career there are only a handful of teams he has a higher scoring average against than the Jazz. See if you can guess 5 of them . . . there are a total of 8. Full answers after the jump.

Kobe, destroyer of worlds . . .

. . . specifically these worlds