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With season on the line, Jazz must reverse road woes

Utah Jazz's Gordon Hayward (20) is fouled by Cleveland Cavaliers' C.J. Miles (0) during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 6, 2013, in Cleveland. The Cavaliers won 104-101. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

By Bill Oram

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Apr 06 2013 07:07PM
Updated Jul 7, 2013 11:31PM

Oakland, Calif. • If the Utah Jazz always played as well as they do at home, they would be atop the Western Conference. If they always played as poorly as they do on the road, they’d be the West’s worst.

While no NBA team is as good on the road as at home, the Jazz have won 29 games at EnergySolutions Arena, compared to just 11 elsewhere.

"Big difference, huh?" Marvin Williams said.

Not just big. The biggest. No NBA team has a larger disparity between wins at home and on the road than the Jazz.

"For us to go into another building and struggle," Williams said, "it’s almost like we’re two different teams."

It’s a cruel dynamic for the Jazz. It is the most glaring downer of a herky-jerky season in which they find themselves in another will-they-or-won’t-they playoff chase. It’s also one thing they must overcome if they hope to make the postseason. The Jazz remain a half-game behind the Los Angeles Lakers for the No. 8 seed in the West and play three of their final five games on the road, including Sunday’s game at Golden State. If they expect to make the playoffs, they likely need to win at least two road games.

Recent history — not to mention the gap between home and road wins — promises it won’t be easy. The Jazz are among seven NBA teams with winning records who sport losing records on the road.

But none are so dramatically tilted as the Jazz, who are 29-10 at home and 11-27 on the road.

"That’s a little bit more of a discrepancy than you’d like," coach Tyrone Corbin said of his team’s gap.

On March 29, the Jazz broke a nine-game road losing streak that dated back to Feb. 13. That 112-102 comeback win in Portland gave the Jazz confidence that they can win on the road, but also came amid a stretch of games when the Trail Blazers were without All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge.

"We’ve got to understand what we did the last time we were on the road, up in Portland," Corbin said. "We got to play that way. We’ve got to play with a sense of urgency."

That night the Jazz closed the game on a 25-6 run to beat the Trail Blazers 112-102.

The Jazz have a famous home-court advantage, in which boisterous crowds are closer to the court than in other NBA arenas, and the steep sides of the lower bowl give players the sense that the jeers are coming from directly above them.

"Your fans can rally you," Corbin said. "On the road, you’re out on your own, just your group of guys. And the other team has the advantage of the enthusiasm of the crowd."

But that’s hardly a scientific explanation. When pressed to explain why the Jazz are 18 games better in one gym than in the rest, the answers were fairly uniform.

"I don’t know," Williams conceded.

"It’s a good question," Gordon Hayward said.

For Hayward, it’s a particularly vexing issue.

"I like playing on the road better," he said. "I kind of like being the villain, but for whatever reason, we just don’t bring it on the road."

For Williams, this isn’t entirely new. In 2008-09, his Atlanta Hawks finished 31-10 at home and just 16-25 on the road. The following year, 34 of the Hawks’ 53 wins came at home.

"It was something nuts," he said. "Obviously, with the fans here and the support that we have definitely does make it easier for us to win here. It is very difficult to come into this building and win, and I think other teams know that."

The Jazz are 19-0 at home against sub-.500 teams, but just 2-18 on the road against winning teams. They haven’t won consecutive road games all season — a bad omen given the win against the Trail Blazers.

"We got to work from where we are," Corbin said. "We got a win the last time we were on the road and we want to build on that."

Twitter: @tribjazz

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