By: Daniel Olsen
January 14, 2019
(Featured photo courtesy of KUTV)
Before this week the Jazz didn’t have any double digit halftime comeback wins. They now have two in the last 10 days. What does this mean? Are the Jazz the new Comeback Kids or does this mean nothing? The answer is yes. Analytics support it. The eye test supports it. If both of these claims were Girl Scout cookies then your mother would support it too.
First let’s look at the claim that the Jazz are the “comeback kids”. What does it mean to be a comeback kid? It could mean coming back from a double digit deficit. The Jazz came back from down 21 to the Orlando Magic and down 18 to the Pistons to win two games against weak opponents. The fact that these are weak opponents suggests that the Jazz might want to get off to a better start when they play the Golden States of the world.
The Jazz sometimes play down to their competition. Maybe they just take a while to find their groove. They are one of the worst first quarter teams and frankly have gotten off to a poor start in their last two seasons too. 19-28 was nothing to write home about last year and this year they’ve hovered a few games below .500 for a while before their recent three game winning streak. If you talk about a comeback in terms of an entire season the Jazz could definitely be the Comeback kids to close out the final 39 games. Last year they finished the year on a blistering 29-6 pace. That’s an 82% winning percentage. If they could just maintain that then they would be vying for a top spot in the West.
The reason that won’t happen for a while is the Jazz just aren’t good enough yet to do that well over the course of an entire season. Aside from their recent point guard injuries to their first, second and third string floor generals, the Jazz have been a lot healthier this year with Donovan only missing a few games and Rudy playing in every single game. Last year when the Jazz were losing games it was because Rudy missed a lot of games due to an injury. Rudy is here and the Jazz are figuring out how to defend in the new fast paced NBA. They haven’t learned how to consistently make shots because of two reasons.
First, they are getting open looks but just aren’t making shots. Kyle Korver has been good but Joe Ingles has been struggling at above the break threes and aside from a record night of 20 three point made shots earlier in the year, the Jazz can’t make shots consistently.
Second, the reason they can’t consistently make shots is because they aren’t always getting quality shots off. That’s because Donovan Mitchell is the only type of player that can consistently create his own shot. Everyone has to be somewhat athletic to play in the NBA but the Jazz won’t win a title with decently athletic players. They had an MVP and one of the best point guards of all time and still came up just a bit short because Michael Jordan was a freak athlete and an unrelenting competitor.
Nobody can say that the Jazz are good right now because of their athleticism. They are great but it’s time to call it like it is. Ricky Rubio is good but he struggles against athletic point guards. Joe Ingles looks like he doesn’t have athleticism so he can do a few sneaky things. Gobert is long and you can’t teach 7 feet with basically an 8 foot wingspan. Come on, 7 foot 9 should round up to eight feet.
The Jazz have survived the Wild West for two reasons. First, Quin Snyder is a great coach who stems from a coaching tree that goes all the way back to Greg Popovich. They don’t always get the best players to come to Salt Lake City but they search for players that fit their system. With the #TeamIsEverything moniker the Jazz do play amazing team defense and they get by on offense. Another reason is because they have a rising star in Donovan Mitchell on offense and the Stifle Tower in Rudy Gobert on defense. Donovan also lights up the crowd with dunks that turn heads. He finished a great alley oop dunk on Christmas and recently just posterized a 7 foot player in Javale McGee.
Conclusion: Don’t expect the Jazz to come back from down 20 against playoff teams but do expect Quin to try and light a fire under them early in games. They are playing a lot of weak teams and they get Detroit again this time at home. Every team is gunning for them and they have to earn their spot back in the playoffs. The Lakers are fading with LeBron out so it looks like Utah will soon be back in the playoff mix but any lapse and there are teams that are chomping at the bit to take their spot. Expect the Jazz to flirt with 50 wins in a monster comeback to end the season but don’t expect them to have a record 38 game win streak to end the season and become the top seed in the West. The Jazz are the Comeback Kids of an entire season but not any one monster game. The NBA is more of a marathon than a sprint like the 16 game NFL regular season might be. It’s time for the Jazz to prove whether lightning can strike twice. Can they beat the teams they should beat and knock off a few playoff teams too? Time will tell.