Above all else, this Truth must be understood:
Any NBA team can beat any other NBA team on any given night.
This is why I still watched the Jazz after the Deron trade—even though I knew the team was dreadful. This is why San Antonio could lose to a disgusting Trailblazers team the same season in won 59 games and cruised to the championship.
As much as individual games can be hyped, they really don't mean all that much. Really, single games are meaningless except in how they relate to the other eighty-one individual games of the season. The two magical ingredients called context and sample-size.
What matters is consistency. What do the Jazz do time after time after time, in game after game after game?
I thought of this when I posted a few snarky twitter comments after the Jazz beat the Hornets.
So now winning isn't good enough. The wins have to be the right kind of wins for people to be satisfied.
So went the criticism.
The funny thing is, cut the sarcasm and this is correct. Winning a game literally isn't good enough. It never has been, and it never will be.
If the Jazz are to change from the team they were last year post-Trade to the team they hope to be (a contender) they must change the context of their wins and losses. They must change what they consistently do—from consistent losing habits to consistent winning habits.
That's why the New Orleans win felt so hollow to me. I didn't see anything change about how the Jazz approached games. They just happened to make more shots this time, and NO happened to make dreadful decisions in crunch-time. Just lucky flukes—the random fluctuations of a season going nowhere.
No, winning wasn't enough. It was far more telling to me that 1) all the losing habits things persisted and 2) they actually came close to losing that game. The game showed the team was staying their dreadful course.
* * *
With that in mind, the Bucks win felt better. It was, to me, much more encouraging. All things considered, the Jazz should have walloped them by about 50. And yes, Brandon Jennings and Captain Jack both made courageous runs at earning the game ball with their shot "selection."
And some bad habits persist. I still can't fathom why Al Jefferson should command 25% of the team's entire shots (true story: Al's usage this year resembles the Mailman's during his second MVP season). CJ's decision-making seems worse every game. The more you look, the more you see a lot of the same ugly things in that Bucks win.
But there were a few nice things. At least Al's 17 shots weren't all flop-around-the-key-weazies. He seemed to focus on high-percentage shots. Raja's minutes are disappearing, and Alec Burks is starting to be freed. Or at least let out of the cage while still wearing a chain. Hayward played with confidence again. Millsap shot a decent percentage again. The team looked decent in the first half when Kanter/Favors/Burks were doing their thing.
* * *
But it was just a game. So many bad habits, so many good developments, but a whole lot more context needed to understand this team.
But it was enough to hope.
Which is more than some putrid wins can provide.