Coverage from Utah's 112-102 win over the Portland Trail Blazers:
— Utah beats Portland to stay in playoff position
— Mo Williams returns to early-season form
— Portland’s Damian Lillard sets rookie 3-point record
— Kragthorpe: Quick analysis of Jazz 112, Blazers 102 win
Someone should see if Jazz play-by-play artist/amateur statistician David Locke has an official breakdown for the correlation between team performance and quality of quotes. It's no real science, of course. Players will have more to say when they're happy.
The locker room following the Jazz's 112-102 over the Portland Trail Blazers was no exception. The Jazz have now won five in a row, and while spirits were high team-wide, one player was particularly thoughtful and gracious with his time.
Randy Foye is giving Earl Watson a run for his money as team philosopher (but sort of in the way the Jazz are chasing Houston for seventh in the West). Foye spoke at length Monday night about The impact Tyrone Corbin had in the locker room to keep the Jazz above water amid a four-game losing streak that, at the time, seemed to eliminate the Jazz from much playoff hope.
If ever I wanted to just turn the Tribune game story over to one player quote, it was tonight. I generally hate turning this space into one big quote sheet, but this stuff is too good not to share in full.
Randy Foye, take center court...
On keeping spirits up during downturn | "Coach did a great job. The mood in the locker room never was like, 'Forget this or it's over.' It was always like, 'All right, there's a mountain here in front of us.' ... I think coach did a great job of explaining to us every day that it's an uphill battle and you just got to keep working through it and it's not just basketball it's life. It's something that he explained to us. You have setbacks in life, are you going to quit and give up? No. I think that we had a couple setbacks but we stayed together and continued to fight as a family. With that, we won five in a row."
On fighting back from said woes | "I just think that teams go through certain parts of the season where you struggle, things are not clicking. And not just us, the better teams in the league. And I think as of now we're just...I'm not saying we're peaking, we're getting better every game. Where we struggled to get off to better starts, we're starting to get off to unbelievable starts to put our young guys into a better situation. Instead of having them come in down four or down then they have to fight back for it. I think the starters are just doing a tremendous job, just setting the tone from the beginning."
The Jazz have won five in a row, but those wins have all come against teams beneath them in the standings (with the exception of Brooklyn) and all teams were missing key players. Foye said, "Don't matter, man. They get paid just like we get paid." However, Foye acknowledged that a win Wednesday would truly change the feeling about the Jazz.
On playing Denver | You got to take it one game at a time. Not to say... Them guys get paid just like us, they're professionals. But at the end of the day a win against Denver? A three seed? Would be huge. Not only in the standings but for our confidence. We know how good they are. We see how many teams go into the Pepsi Center and get blown out. The best of them. So we know. And we're confident that we're going to come out and we're going to play well together. The biggest thing is you've got to believe in yourself. If you don't believe in yourself, if you don't believe you can win then you don't have a chance."
For fun, I asked Foye about Mo Williams shooting 6-of-7 from 3 two nights after Foye tied a team record by going 8-of-9. Foye joked, "He's trying to break the record, man. I just tied it the other day. He needs to relax."
Some things can't be explained by statistics (although I'm sure Locke will find a way to prove me wrong). The Jazz's pace of play in the last five games is actually down. But it sure doesn't feel that way.
Tyrone Corbin said Tuesday that two things are happening. Both the Jazz are intentionally playing a faster pace and the defense is fueling more opportunities in transition. The Jazz outscored Portland 16-11 in fastbreak points, but more impressively, 52-28 in the paint.
"We want to make sure that ... it's not a rat race pace," Corbin said. "We want to push it down the floor to give us more time once we get in our halfcourt sets, because teams are, once we're getting into the post, they're coming off, extra body at Al, so we need time to explore options there. We want to get it down, we have been able to run a few more pick and rolls as a result and pick the pace up because of how the pace is going on the other end."
But the defense, according to Gordon Hayward, is where it starts.
"We've been a lot more active," he said. "We had a lot more energy, rotations have been a lot better. I think, you can see the benefits of that on the offensive end, we're not walking into plays, allowing teams to kind of lock us down, we're able to get better shots."
The Lakers play Dallas on Tuesday. Who do you root for? A Dallas win and the Jazz will sit a full game ahead of the Lakers, but it would also move Dallas more firmly into a three-team race. Entering the game, Dallas is two games behind the Jazz and 1 ½ behind the Lakers.
Again, here's Foye on the importance of that game:
"A win against Denver? A three seed? Would be huge. Not only in the standings but for our confidence. We know how good they are. We see how many teams go into the Pepsi Center and get blown out. The best of them. So we know. And we're confident that we're going to come out and we're going to play well together. The biggest thing is you've got to believe in yourself. If you don't believe in yourself, if you don't believe you can win then you don't have a chance."
— Bill Oram