Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Monson: The sky’s the limit for the Utah Jazz ... sort of



< Previous Page


"The sky’s the limit for us."

That was the declaration that throttled over the lip and flew out of Paul Millsap’s mouth after the Jazz won their fourth straight game, a thriller taken in the last second from the San Antonio Spurs at EnergySolutions Arena on Wednesday night.

At a glance

Utah at Phoenix

Friday, 7 p.m.

TV » ROOT

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Beating the team with the best record in the NBA, the same team that swept the Jazz out of the playoffs last year, can give wings even to a quiet man’s words. Heretofore, the limit placed on the Jazz this season from most corners, maybe even from within the locker room, was substantially closer to ground level.

That was then, this is now.

Since dropping three straight — at Oklahoma City, at Houston, at home to the Clippers — to dip under .500, the Jazz downed Orlando and Toronto at ESA, the Lakers in L.A., and the Spurs back here to prop themselves up to 13-10.

"We have a lot of confidence right now," said Gordon Hayward. "It’s a matter of us finding out who we are as a team, getting more comfortable playing with each other."

Added Tyrone Corbin: "We understand a little better how we have to play individually and collectively. We understand more the urgency of finishing off games."

It’s not as though the Jazz so suddenly are all fat-headed and full of themselves. There’s always a qualifier somewhere in their mix, like Corbin’s afterthought: "We’re not completely there yet, but we’re getting better as a group."

Asked about the team’s early playoff positioning prior to the latest win, Al Jefferson said: "That’s not even something to talk about right now. Sixty games left. A lot can happen in 60 games. We can get that No. 1 seed, or we can be No. 15. You never know." After edging the Spurs, Jefferson said: "We’re in a good position right now, but we can’t be satisfied."

Millsap also tapped down his optimism a couple of notches, to treetop level, saying: "As long as we play team basketball, we’ll be fine."


story continues below
story continues below

That’s what the Jazz have been doing of late: "Moving the ball," Derrick Favors said. "Helping on defense."

Instead of the ball bogging down, Jazz shooters are getting and hitting open attempts — they shot 49 percent against the Spurs, 54 percent against the Lakers, 50 percent against the Raptors. "We’re doing a good job of getting a second and third pass to get a shot on the weak side," Corbin said. And, then, at the defensive end, on-the-ball resistance has been stiffer, rotations have been quicker, results have been improved.

"We’re playing a lot better basketball," said Mo Williams, who hit the game-winner against San Antonio. "We just want to keep it going, keep playing. Everybody likes each other. The young guys are developing right before our eyes. Confidence is growing. We’ll see where our ceiling is."

The next couple of weeks should give more indication. Five of the Jazz’s next six games are on the road, starting at Phoenix on Friday night, then at Brooklyn, at Indiana, at Miami and at Orlando. Between facing the Suns and the Nets, the Jazz play at ESA against one of the best teams in the West: Memphis. Their two home games directly after Christmas include surprising Golden State and the Clippers.

"This is a great test for us," Corbin said. "We have to force our will on teams to win on the road."

It is rather stupefying that the Jazz do the Jekyll-and-Hyde thing — or is it Heckle and Jeckle? — at home (9-1) and on the road (4-9). It’s almost as though they need coach Norman Dale to get out the measuring tape and prove to all of them that the dimensions of the game are exactly the same in every arena.

Corbin said the Jazz need something even more substantial: "Complete growth at both ends of the floor. We need execution. Better screens, harder cuts, get down the floor faster, attack at the basket early. Defensively, we can get back and meet the ball, get guys off their spots more, play hard for 48 minutes. Confidence comes from getting the defensive stuff."

At times, the Jazz have turned to vapor over stretches, yielding costly runs to opponents they otherwise have contained. That tendency has been tempered in the past four games.

"We all have jobs that we’re supposed to do on each possession and over the course of a game," Hayward said. "That’s what everyone needs to focus on. The guys on the ball have a job to do, and the guys on the weak side have a job to do. It all starts on defense for us. The more stops we get, the more easy baskets we get transitionally. We have to play physically without fouling. You want to make sure you’re making things difficult, but you can’t have everyone fouling, putting guys on the line shooting free throws.

"If we can get everyone in that mindset, I think we’ll be pretty good. If …"

Gordon Monson hosts "The Big Show" weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 1280 AM/97.5 FM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Login to the Electronic Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.