It’s been an up and down season for the Utah Jazz.
Utah Jazz last 21 games in one emoji:— StatMuse (@statmuse) March 7, 2020
Just when you think the Jazz are one of the elite teams in the league they go on a disheartening losing streak.
Is there reason to believe that this current 5-game winning streak is any different than winning streaks before? Yes, well, at least tentatively.
Mike Conley is here
Mike Conley has been playing at a high level for a while now. Since re-joining the the starting unit Conley is shooting 46% from the field and 44% from three with a positive net rating.
Against Boston that positive impact was very apparent. Both Bojan Bogdanovic and Donovan Mitchell had off nights but Conley was able to take over for the offense and get the win.
Part of what has been so good with Conley has been his ability to lead the second unit. Once a huge weakness, Utah’s Conley-led bench has become a serious weapon. Against the Celtics every Jazz bench player had a plus-minus between +22 and +26. That’s a complete turnaround from the beginning of the season when Utah’s bench gave up massive runs every game.
The team is also completely behind Conley and believes this is what the Jazz can expect for the rest of the season.
Mike Conley: “I’m in a great place, my teammates have been behind me this whole time. It’s been a frustrating road for all of us, because they know how good I am, and I know how good I am. ... Finally, things are starting to turn the corner.” pic.twitter.com/x7kXR4WHbI— Eric Walden (@tribjazz) March 7, 2020
The defense looks back on track
The Jazz, since Rudy Gobert stepped on the floor, have had a clear defense-first mentality. That hasn’t been the case this whole season as there have been multiple nights where they’ve been exposed.
During this recent win streak the Jazz look like they’ve found some continuity again.
Nice team D from Utah here getting a little closer to their identity on that end. Watch the help defense. Ingles active vs. the handoff. Bradley at the level in P&R but gets beat. Niang helps and Conley/Clarkson sink. Clarkson closes out, Niang recovers, Conley helps on drive pic.twitter.com/VePsgGPQxY— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) March 7, 2020
Against Boston the Jazz looked as connected as they have all season. It wasn’t just another night relying only on Gobert to save them from poor perimeter defense. Players were helping at the right time and guarding with force.
It’s also been nice to see Quin Snyder change and evolve what the Jazz do. So many nights this season it’s felt like opposing coaches figured out what the Jazz do and then exploit it. But Quin Snyder got the best of Brad Stevens last night as they covered up their weaknesses.
Obviously, some of this comes down to players playing well. It’s easy to look good when Mike Conley’s shot is falling but Quin Snyder was prepared for whatever the Celtics were bringing. On the offensive end as well.
Things are looking better than they have all season.
For Jazz fans this is the Mike Conley you want to see. Comes off P&R and he's got the attention of 3 Celtics defenders (nice stunt from Smart). Makes the skip, cuts to get open, sees the Celtics don't make the switch and just takes/makes the open shot. Looks familiar. pic.twitter.com/3SZqBwdrZ5— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) March 7, 2020
Conley again here and you can see him reading defenses like usual vs. forcing the issue. Comes off Gobert and sees Kemba go under. Gobert does a good job of quickly turning for a re-screen, Conley comes right off it and with Theis back goes right into a pullup. Quick decisions. pic.twitter.com/UpkDqcfhFF— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) March 7, 2020
With how up and down this season has been it’s easy to think that the recent Jazz play is fools gold. But having Mike Conley playing at this level, with a defense that is playing more connected than it has all season, is enough reason for Jazz fans to think that they can still get a home court advantage and go deep in the playoffs. It’s up to the Jazz now to keep it up.