Something exciting is going on with the Utah Jazz this year. Although it is early in the season, and they took a rough loss in Charlotte last nigh the team is already establishing an identity of toughness on the road. Prior to this loss, the Jazz have won their last three road games, including a 15-point win in San Antonio against the mighty Spurs. All three of the games have been double-digit wins where the Jazz dominated the fourth quarter. This is an exciting trend that could mean big things for Utah this season.
Dominating on a Five-Game Road Trip
The second of two games of this road winning streak for the Jazz were part of a five-game road trip. Building on the big win against the San Antonio Spurs, the Jazz also defeated the New York Knicks and the Philadelphia 76ers on back-to-back nights.
They have games left against Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics. The upcoming Orlando and Miami games are on back-to-back nights, meaning the Jazz both begin and end this five-game road trip with back-to-back games. That is a tough ask of any team, but this Jazz team appears to always be ready to rise to the challenge on the road.
Keys to Utah’s Road Success
Historically, the Jazz franchise has not been known for their road success. That goes all the way back to the Malone and Stockton era. If you look back over the Jazz’s 15 seasons since those two Hall-of-Fame players retired, the team has only had a winning record on the road once. That one winning road record for a Jazz team in the last 15 years came in the 2009-2010 season when they finished a measly one game over .500 away from a home with a 21-20 record.
One of the keys to the success of any road team is defense. Defense is something that does not go in streaks. Any good defensive team can bring their A-game every night on the road. This Jazz team has a fierce defensive identity. Eight games into the season, the Jazz have the second-best scoring defense in the NBA behind the Clippers. Utah is holding its opponents this year to an average of 94.4 points per game. This kind of defense is helping to propel them to success on the road this season.
Another key ingredient to the Jazz’s road results this year has been the addition of two free agents, Joe Johnson and George Hill. Having these two veteran presences on the team is very helpful. They set the tone on the road, and the young guys on the roster like Rodney Hood are following their lead.
An interesting part of Utah’s winning ability on the road is the fact that they have the most international roster in the league. The Jazz have seven players who were born outside the United States. These international players have an advantage over American-born players when it comes to playing on the road. They have left the comfortable environments of their own countries, meaning that they live a life of adaptation. This international comfort factor is undoubtedly part of the equation to explain Utah’s rough excellence.