By Mark Strotman | | 4 mins
Utah Jazz Remain Huge NBA Long Shot Despite Closing Red-Hot
We’ve seen this from the Utah Jazz before. Last season they were reeling in the wake of losing Gordon Hayward to the Boston Celtics in free agency and were 19-28 following an ugly road loss to a 14-32 Atlanta Hawks team on Jan. 22.
Then something flipped and for the last three months of the season they were arguably the NBA’s best team. They won 29 of their final 35 games with three separate win streaks of 11, nine and six games.
The 48-win season earned them the No. 5 seed in the West and their momentum led them to a six-game thumping of the Thunder in the playoffs’ first round.
They lost to the Rockets in five games but cemented their status as contenders in their post-Hayward era.
They’re at it again one year later. Losses to the Pelicans, Grizzlies and Thunder in early March pitted them 8th in the West, a dangerous spot to be in with a first-round matchup against the Warriors looming. But they’ve been utterly unstoppable since, and fans of NBA betting should take notice.
Of course, they’ll need to figure a way to get past the Warriors – and a Round 2 matchup looks to be on deck – but the Jazz are on the rise. Their +4000 odds to win the West and +6000 odds in NBA Finals betting are excellent value, even if they may be a year or two – and a piece or two – away from truly contending. They’ve only gotten better.
Breaking Down the Jazz Roll
Since March 13 the Jazz have won 11 of their last 12 games and look ready for another fun postseason. Wednesday’s win over Phoenix was their 48th, tying them for last season’s total with four games to go. Granted, Utah’s competition has been light in this stretch.
During this 12-game span they’ve played just one playoff team. Then again, they haven’t let up against lesser competition and this season they still tout wins over each of the top four seeds in the West, and they’re a combined 7-7 in those games.
The recipe has been simple: Defense, defense, defense and enough offense to get over the hump. They rank second in the NBA in defensive efficiency, just percentage points behind league-leading Milwaukee, and have had the NBA’s best defense since the All-Star break.
Rudy Gobert, who looks like a candidate to repeat as Defensive Player of the Year, has led the way, but players such as Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles and Ricky Rubio have also pitched in on that end. It’s an absolute team effort for Quin Snyder’s group and they’ve gotten it done all year.
Who’s Leading the Jazz Surge?
Utah entered the All-Star break with the No. 19 offense in the NBA behind teams like Charlotte, Washington and Sacramento. But they flipped a switch coming out of the break, and since then they have the No. 4 offense behind only Portland, Houston and Milwaukee.
Mitchell has been a star, averaging 26.3 points (11th in the NBA) and 4.4 assists in that span, while Gobert’s offensive continues to fly under the radar. He’s a nightmare in pick-and-roll situations and can’t miss around the rim, with his 67.0% from the field leading the NBA.
He’s also improved his passing to the tune of a career-best 2.0 assists per game. Gobert has played so well this season that his 63 point-rebound double-doubles passed Karl Malone for the most all-time in Jazz single-season history.
Oh, and he has the NBA record for most dunks in a single season most dunks in a single season – good thing he earned that title before Zion Williamson entered the league.
It was always the belief that in this era a defensive-minded team couldn’t win an NBA title, but the Jazz have begun to buck the notion that they’re only focused on one end of the floor. Between Mitchell, Gobert and a host of role players who fit perfectly, they have the look of a well-oiled offensive machine.
That will serve them well in the postseason, where they’ll have a ball-dominant scorer in Mitchell who is capable of driving and dishing to open shooters, as well as a sure thing around the rim in Gobert.
It’s the perfect postseason recipe, and having the league’s best defense in the postseason, when the games slow down and possessions matter more, is an added bonus for this red-hot bunch.