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The Utah Jazz are in Great Shape

But the All Star break couldn’t come sooner

NBA: Utah Jazz at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t know about you, but that 5 game losing streak had me out of sorts for a few days there. Everything looked broken. Minimal effort, bad turnovers, poor shooting, disappearing defense. You name it, the Jazz had it. And to make it more confusing, it was immediately after such an incredible run of wins.

Currently the Utah Jazz are 4th in the West, with a 2 game lead on the Houston Rockets for home court advantage come playoffs. But the West is honestly pretty close from 2nd all the way to 7th. Only 6 games separate all 6 teams. For comparison, 15 games separate the Toronto Raptors from the Brooklyn Nets in the East.

Ultimately, I think a team is as good as their record says they are. At 35-18, I’d say that’s pretty good. And there’s reason to believe it will get better by the end of the year.

Number of Home Games Remaining

Number of Games Remaining Against Teams >.500

  • Denver Nuggets: 16/28
  • Los Angeles Clippers: 14/28
  • Utah Jazz: 14/29
  • Houston Rockets: 13/29
  • OKC Thunder: 14/29
  • Dallas Mavericks: 12/28

Number of Back to Backs Remaining

  • Denver Nuggets: 3
  • Los Angeles Clippers: 3
  • Utah Jazz: 4
  • Houston Rockets: 3
  • OKC Thunder: 5
  • Dallas Mavericks: 4

Obviously there isn’t a huge separation between teams here. But there doesn’t have to be for a difference to be made when playoff seeding is due. The race is so close that just a game or two here and there will make all the difference. I’m comfortable with the 4 seed, but I’d love for the Jazz to capitalize and get up to #3. A couple things have me optimistic that will happen.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Improved bench play. The bench minutes in the early goings of the season were just horrific. It was unbearable. Ever since the Jazz traded for Jordan Clarkson, things have been significantly better.

  • Utah Jazz bench PPG before the trade: 26.9 (29th)
  • Utah Jazz bench PPG since the trade: 36.8 (18th)
  • Utah Jazz bench +/- before the trade: -2.4 (25th)
  • Utah Jazz bench +/- since the trade: +0.8 (8th)

That’s made a world of difference in multiple games, most recently in last night’s. The bench actually saved the Jazz from self-collapsing and losing the 20 point lead entirely by extending back out in the 3rd quarter. Even just an average bench would have been a huge development. A good one could make all the difference in a game or 2 of the playoffs.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Utah Jazz Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Conley’s resurgence. Mike Conley’s start as a Jazzman was less than fortunate. Big expectations brought pretty big letdowns and disappointment. But now that he’s healthy again, things are looking more like the Memphis Mike the front office thought they traded for. Since getting back into the starting lineup, he’s averaging:

  • 20.3 points
  • 5.0 rebounds
  • 4.8 assists
  • 46.8 FG%
  • 50.0 3P%

He also just looks more comfortable on the court. He’s starting to gain command of the offense and is facilitating much better. Mike Conley at his best is the only way this Jazz team reaches it’s ceiling. It’s great to see it start to come together.

Was I frustrated and disappointed by that 5 game losing streak? Absolutely. It was disgusting. Ending that tough 10 game stretch at 5-5 is much less disappointing if the Jazz can take care of business against a tired Miami Heat team tomorrow night. In fact, that’s about what we could have expected.

Once the guys come back from a well-deserved break, I’m ready for one of those patented late-season runs where Quin Snyder’s team starts to peak at the right time. And it’s going to be awesome.