Prior to the NBA All-Star break, the Utah Jazz suffered one of their worst losses of the season against the Los Angeles Lakers. Although they weren’t fully healthy, the Jazz collapsed in a disappointing manner we’ve seen too many times. They let the Lakers come back into a game they had no business winning, and were bullied out of Crypto.com Arena.
I couldn’t have imagined a worse way for the Jazz to enter the All-Star break. I was worried that, given how fragile the roster seemed during January and February, this loss would act as a large setback. That they’d continue to have major lapses in focus for the rest of the season.
Fortunately, I was wrong.
Since returning from the break, the Jazz have brought a level of effort that I haven’t seen from them all season. In their games against the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns, they used more than X’s and O’s to win. They used hustle, want, and toughness.
Against the Suns in particular, the Jazz didn’t collapse when they were down 0-8 to start the game. They didn’t collapse when Phoenix went on a 20-6 run. And importantly, they didn’t let a whistle that wasn’t going their way take them out of the game mentally. All of these things, at one point or another this season, have effectively made Utah uncompetitive. To see the Jazz react positively under these circumstances has been an incredible development.
One player to thank for this is Danuel House Jr. Against Phoenix, the ended the game with 8 points, 5 rebounds, and 1 block, but had an impact that reached so much further than the numbers showed. In his 21 minutes, the tempo and feeling of the game entirely changed for Utah. On defense, he chased Phoenix’s shooters (particularly Devin Booker) on every action, screen, and iso possession. It was a breath of fresh air on a team that has needed this type of skillset in the worst way. Given that Quin Snyder ended the game with him over Royce O’Neale, Jazz brass have noticed House’s impact as well.
This type of play is infectious and I hope it continues to rub off on the rest of the roster. The Jazz, both literally and figuratively, look healthy again. They look confident, fun, and energetic. Here’s to hoping that this type of play is here to stay through the rest of the season.