Could things be much sweeter in Jazz land right now? A frantic comeback over the San Antonio Spurs and a lethargic win over the listless Phoenix Suns assured Utah would be the hottest team in the NBA at the All-Star break. They’ve won 11 straight, Donovan Mitchell is your Dunk Contest champion and now (almost) all of the national media we’ve been tracking have the Jazz as a top-10 team. Rotoworld continues to drag their feet, but even ESPN has Utah at number 10 this week. If they’re able to come away from a home back-to-back this weekend unscathed by the Blazers and Mavericks, the Jazz could soar even higher in next week’s edition.
*Last week’s rankings carried over (Apparently CBS and SI are on All-Star break too)
The reverberations inside the concrete bunker on South Temple are feverish again, as the Jazz have ripped off 11 consecutive wins. On the eve of the streak, Utah ranked 18th in offensive efficiency and 14th in defensive efficiency. Now, it’s 13th and sixth, respectively. Four Utah starters have compiled a true shooting percentage better than 60 during the streak. The one who hasn’t? Donovan Mitchell, who’s doing just fine, thank you.
When they were 16-24 six weeks ago, it was proposed in this space that the Jazz could be this year’s version of last year’s Heat, considering their first-half injuries, point differential and strength of schedule. They rank No. 1 defensively over their 11-game winning streak, but the offense (sixth over the streak) is the bigger surprise. Rodney Hood shot well at the beginning of the streak, but was traded. Ricky Rubio had a couple of big games in the middle of the streak, but has missed the last three games. Donovan Mitchell has been the leading scorer over the streak, but hasn’t been all that efficient. They’ve found a way every night and they have an easier remaining schedule than teams 5-9 in the West, though they’ll get visits from the Blazers, Rockets and Wolves on a four-game homestand that begins Friday.
Utah, the league’s hottest team, entered the All-Star break having won 11 consecutive contests. The Jazz were just 19-28 when they started their streak. According to Elias Sports research, Utah is only the third team in NBA history to put together a winning streak of 10 or more games after being at least nine games under .500 at the beginning of the streak. Another encouraging stat for Utah: They have just ten road games remaining this season, tied for fewest in the league.
I hope the rook makes good use of his break the rest of this week, because I think he needs it. Over the final five games before the break, Mitchell played more than 36 minutes four times and had a usage percentage over 30 four times, but he also had an eFG% under 50 four times. The Jazz are riding Mitchell hard during this streak, which makes it all the more impressive. However, don’t forget that Utah is 12-2 since the return of one Rudy Gobert from injury. Spida may be getting the pub right now, but the Stifle Tower still makes this machine go.