The start of a new year is normally a time to bring about new hope, but things are not well in Utah Jazz land. The team has lost three in a row and nine of the last 11. Rudy Gobert still has yet to return from his second knee injury of the season, and the play of point guard Ricky Rubio isn’t what the Jazz envisioned it being when they acquired him last July. The bright spot is that Donovan Mitchell has grown into a legitimate lead scoring role much earlier than anyone could have expected and is making a push for Rookie of the Year. Thank goodness for that, because it might be all that keeps Jazz fans watching this season, and that shows in the most recent NBA Power Rankings.
Joe Johnson’s jumper gave Utah 75 points with 1:09 left in the third quarter on Sunday. In their first meeting with the Heat this season, the Jazz scored 74 total points.
The schedule has not been kind to Utah since its six-game winning streak in late-November and early-December. Since Dec. 4, the Jazz have played one team currently below .500 and that was the Bulls. The rest of January is going to let up on them a little.
We will be fine— Rudy Gobert (@rudygobert27) January 6, 2018
Exactly what someone on a team that will not be fine would say.
Though Rudy Gobert has played in just 18 games and they had played 13 of their last 20 against top-10 offenses, the Jazz managed to remain in the top 10 defensively through Friday’s loss in Denver. Sunday’s loss in Miami finally knocked them out, though they’ll probably think more about the offensive possessions that got away in the final minutes. They’ve lost 13 of their last 16 games (ranking 29th offensively and 28th defensively over that stretch), getting knocked out of playoff contention by a brutal schedule. They’re 21 games through a stretch where they’re playing 21 of 24 against teams that are currently at or above .500 and 13 of the 24 on the road, where they’ve been more than 11 points per 100 possessions worse defensively than they’ve been at home. Their second-half schedule will be easier and their point differential is that of a team that’s 19-21, so maybe they’re this year’s versions of last year’s Heat.
Donovan Mitchell was named the Western Conference Rookie of the Month in December after leading all rookies in scoring (23.1 points) and steals (1.8). Mitchell also ranked third among Western Conference rookies in field goal percentage (50.7 percent) and fourth in assists (3.8 dimes).
Dennis Lindsey has some decisions to make in the next month and I don’t envy him. Will the Jazz be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline? Based on the rumors going around this week, I’m guessing they’ll be somewhere in between, though I lean a little on the sellers side. On the court, the schedule is about to ease up in a big way. We’ll see if this team can make any headway digging out of the hole.