There were no underlying issues when the Utah Jazz took a 104-90 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on the road Jan. 22. The team simply came out flat and, as a result, fell to 19-28 and looked more on their way for the NBA Draft lottery than a push for a playoff run in the Western Conference.
Fast-forward to today and the Jazz are the hottest team in the NBA, winners of 10 straight games as tonight’s game against the Phoenix Suns looms (9 ET, NBA League Pass). It is not often that a team boasting a rookie as a leading scorer (Donovan Mitchell) and that has dealt with injury issues makes a sudden playoff charge. But that’s exactly what the Jazz are doing and Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News digs into how they’ve done it.
In short, the Jazz have found some toughness, found togetherness and are in a defensive and offensive zone they’ve lacked all season:
“I think the Atlanta game, as disappointed as we all were in our performance, there’s always some games in the NBA season where you lay an egg, and it has more to do with how you respond,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder.
“They have pride, collective pride. I think that game, it didn’t feel good. You lose games, but if you lose, you want to lose a certain way, if that makes sense. Lose by competing and playing as a team. That’s basically all we’ve been doing.”
During the streak, the Jazz hold the league’s best defensive rating (97.4), the best net rating (15.0), rebound percentage (53.8), and player impact estimate (58.0).
Everything just seems to be clicking. Guys are having fun and are even spending time together. This Utah Jazz team is completely different from three weeks ago.
Right now, this squad has all the implications of reaching the playoffs for the second straight season, but as we all know, there’s still a ton of basketball left to play this season. Let’s not get too excited just yet.
“This is more than a NBA team with us,” Mitchell said. “It’s closer than that. Just going out there every day feeling comfortable to be like, ‘Yo, you want to go do something?’ It’s not as easy as you may think in the NBA.”
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