Stars Align Across League As Jazz Beat Pistons
DETROIT, Michigan – While the Utah Jazz took care of their own business in a 111-105 victory over the Detroit Pistons, the rest of the NBA gave the Jazz a surprising boost in the playoff rankings.
After losing four straight home games to begin the post-All-Star stretch of the season, the Jazz answered by winning their last five outings, including four straight on the road, punctuated by the win in Detroit. The Jazz will return to Salt Lake City where they will play four of their next five games at home.
With the win, paired with a surprising loss by the Houston Rockets against the Charlotte Hornets, the Jazz sit alone in the fourth seed in the Western Conference, a full 1.5 games ahead of the fifth-seeded Rockets.
Houston has lost three straight games, including two against Eastern Conference teams with no hope of making the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the Jazz sit just one game behind the Denver Nuggets who lost in Cleveland against the lowly Cavaliers. Like the Rockets, the Nuggets have lost games to the Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors in their last three outings Both Cleveland and Golden State have the worst records in their respective conferences.
FROM DOWN UNDER 🇦🇺 pic.twitter.com/cEpUBeqzZr
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) March 8, 2020
While the Jazz own the second-longest active winning streak in the NBA currently, it’s how they handle their upcoming six games that may determine their final playoff seeding.
Four of the Jazz next six games are against teams that are firmly entrenched in the playoff picture, beginning with the Toronto Raptors who own the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. The Jazz then travel to Oklahoma City to face the Thunder who sit in the sixth seed in the Western Conference, before playing back to back games against the New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies who are both vying for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) March 8, 2020
The Jazz finish the six-game stretch with a home and home matchup with the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Lakers, who have thoroughly cruised to victory in two meetings so far this season.
While the Jazz are just 5-6 against their upcoming opponents so far this season, the team clearly has momentum at its back. The Jazz are one of the league’s streakiest teams, quickly turning one win into a string of four or five while suffering the same fate in losses. The team’s dependence on momentum makes the matchup against the Raptors Monday all the more important on the front end of the playoff-like gauntlet.
Though the Jazz will be busy with tough stretch, the Nuggets will have their hands full with some of the league’s best over the next two weeks. Six of the Nuggets next seven games are against playoff teams, including matchups with the Milwaukee Bucks, the Lakers, the Los Angeles Clippers, and the Raptors.
Houston faces a much easier set of games in the near future. Six of the Rockets next seven opponents are non-playoff teams, with the Lakers sandwiched in the middle.
While the current five-game winning streak for the Jazz has been significant, their fate likely rides on the next two weeks of basketball.
Guaranteed A .500 Season
The Jazz recorded their 41st victory over the year, guaranteeing themselves no worse than a .500 record for the season. The team now has four consecutive seasons finishing with a record of .500 or better, all of which have come under head coach Quin Snyder.
Snyder’s first year with the Jazz the team went 40-42, falling just short of the level marker but has finished with a winning record every season since. The Jazz have made the playoffs in each of the last three seasons under Snyder and have all but guaranteed a fourth consecutive trip.
According to fivethirtyeight.com, the Jazz have a greater than 99 percent chance of making the playoffs this season, though the prediction based website doesn’t love the team’s odds to advance far in the postseason. The site gives the Jazz less than a one percent chance to make it to the NBA Finals, much less win a championship.
The Jazz had a 110.3 defensive rating over their four-game road trip. While still far from perfect, it’s an improvement from the teams previous stretch. In the team’s last 10 games, the Jazz have a defensive rating of 114.6, which ranks 22nd in the NBA. Over their last four, the team ranks 11th.
The Jazz held the Pistons to just 105 points, including a 17 points first quarter and 22 point second quarter.
Gobert. Factor.☝️ pic.twitter.com/YohZpL56ku
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) March 8, 2020
Though the team has been susceptible to big scoring game from opposing scorers in the paint, the Jazz have defended the three-point shot markedly better over the last five games. The Jazz are allowing teams to shoot just 34 percent during the win streak, as opposed to 46 percent in the first four games returning from the All-Star break.
The Jazz are tied for the league’s 10th best defensive rating with the Orlando Magic at 108.8.
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