Last night the Utah Jazz got blasted by the Houston Rockets on the last game of a three city road trip. The Jazz did get Enes Kanter back in action, but were still down two rotation players. A night after barely losing to the Oklahoma City Thunder while playing only 8 players the team was forced to empty the bench and watch the team suffer the worst loss of the road trip. Still, it's pretty obvious that the team is much better on these road trips than they were, at least, last season.
Years ago I did a whole breakdown of the Utah Jazz on the road, and while I'm not going to re-create that entire data set, I wanted to gauge how the team did on 3+ long game road trips last season and this season. The TL;DR version is: The 2014-15 Utah Jazz aren't afraid of
no ghost playing on the road.
Last season the Jazz went 4-20 on road trips last season, and were down -13.50 ppg in them. Last season they lost in Houston by 38, so losing by 15 is an improvement, right? The team averaged 89.46 ppg, and that's not going to get it done on the road when you are giving up 13+ more points.
Also, the Jazz had 6 road trips last season, and are scheduled to have only 5 this year. The difference is that this season the Jazz will play more 2 game road trips --but those shouldn't be that big of a deal. Of the four games the team won on these road trips, two were of 5 or fewer points; one was by 12; and one was by 21 points. The Jazz also lost two games by fewer than 5 points (so 2-2 in close games). They lost nine games by over 21+ points though, yikes.
So far after 3 of 5 trips this season the Jazz are 6-8, that's WAAAAAAAAY better than last season. The Jazz are scoring 95.14, while giving up 97.50. They are still on the bad side of the final margin, but have been blowing out (16+ point margin) twice. On the other hand the Jazz have BLOWN OUT teams on the road twice as well. They are also 2-2 in close games.
There are games to play yet, but the team seems to be getting more and more proficient on the road, tired legs aside. They were down -29 points after the first trip, then only -4 after the second. This last road trip the Jazz broke dead even, even if they went 1-2.
Rudy Gobert has been huge of late, and Derrick Favors is approaching 20 and 10 status. We almost expect them to dominate now. Gordon Hayward has been playing phenomenally to the point that we almost take it for granted. And Trey Burke is starting to look like the guy we really supported so much last year. This is the same guy who won Rookie of the Month three times, even if he is just now getting out of his slump.
I hope that their solid play continues at home, as it has on the road. But in terms of being a better road team I think it's obvious that the 2014-15 Jazz are. Playing better defense and playing on the road were two bugaboos from the Deron Williams / Carlos Boozer era where the team never had homecourt in the 1st round of the playoffs. Teaching this team at such a young age to win on the road NOW will only pay dividends in the future.
Yea, last season the Jazz were winning 16.7% of their road games on these trips, this season (so far) it's 42.9%. The Jazz have seven games left -- @SAS, @CLE, @MIL, @MEM, @BOS, @PHI, and @BKN. I think the Jazz SHOULD win 4 of those 7. That means the Jazz will go 10 - 11 on long road trips this season. That's my prediction.
The big difference so far as been defense. Last season the Jazz gave up 102.96 ppg on these trips, this season it's only 97.50. Utah is holding the home teams to -5.46 ppg this season. Utah is also scoring more, 95.14 up from 89.46. That's +5.68 ppg. That's an absolute difference of 11.14 in the margin.
Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Trey Burke and company are all a year older. Rudy Gobert is finally getting to play. But there have been crazy injuries to Alec Burks, Enes Kanter, and Rodney Hood. While Trevor Booker has been nice at times, the same can't always be said for Joe Ingles and some of the other rookies. But on any given day someone can step up, like Elijah Millsap has on a 10-day contract.
You cannot convince me that the overt talent level is 'better' this year, after all, we no longer have Marvin Williams and Richard Jefferson on the squad -- and if you listen to some people paid by the same people who own the company that owns the team they were the heart and soul of this franchise.
It ends up being coaching. Systems take time to learn, and adjustments need to be made as the game goes on. Quin Snyder and his staff have been teaching these players, but also scouting the opposition. Road trips mean that a higher percentage of your day is work. And these guys have been putting in the hours. And it shows.
The youth of the team means that they don't know they are supposed to be afraid of teams with more wins than them. And the fire of the coaching staff means more people have been forced to learn, pay attention, and give a damn.
With seven more games left to play on these trips I would be surprised if we didn't see even better play down the road, on the road.