The Utah Jazz have a 25-3 record at home this season, despite having relatively few fans in the seats. How?

NBA’s condensed schedule has made things tougher on visitors, and even reduced crowds at Vivint Arena give Jazz an advantage some other teams haven’t had

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A limited number of fans watch the Utah Jazz host the Minnesota Timberwolves, NBA basketball at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020.

Yes, the Jazz’s remarkable home winning streak is over, thanks to the loss suffered to the Washington Wizards at home on Monday this week.

But now that it is, it almost looks more impressive in retrospect: the Jazz won 24 home games in a row, the most in franchise history. Given some of the stellar home records the Jazz have had in years past, achieving anything that hasn’t been done before in the friendly confines of Salt Lake City should cause observers to, well, #TakeNote.

Overall, the Jazz’s home record now stands at 25-3. The Jazz have had a better home winning percentage in only three seasons: 2007-08, 1996-97, and 1991-92.

And yet, there’s a clear asterisk: the Jazz have had limited crowds all season long. After starting the season with just a couple thousand allowed in Vivint Arena, 5,600 are now being allowed to enter in the lower and upper bowls. It hasn’t produced the decibel levels Jazz fans are known for, but it’s still better than nothing — and many arenas and teams play with nothing.

“It’s a relative thing,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder explained. “But we’ve had support, and we get support. And I think that energy helps our team.”

When the Jazz have disappointed this season, typically, they’ve done it in empty arenas where maybe finding motivation can be more difficult. All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell talked about how he frequently finds motivation through the trash talk and criticism of opposing fans: the first interaction that came to mind for him was a verbal sparring match with a particularly loud Detroit fan on the front row.

The Jazz’s far more pedestrian 16-11 road record reflects the struggles they’ve had in finding their best on the road this season, but in their defense, most of the NBA is going through the same thing. The top two teams in the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets, have very similar 17-12 and 15-10 road records, respectively. Among NBA teams this season, only the Phoenix Suns have been able to find consistent form on the road at 17-7.

The fans play a part, to be sure, but the consistency of mediocre road records throughout the league suggest more tangible factors like travel congestion and rest playing a role. This year’s 72-game schedule has been compressed thanks to the pandemic, with teams facing longer road trips in shorter time spans then in recent years.


At Vivint Arena

When • Friday, 1:30 p.m.


And then COVID-19 testing protocols cut into the rest that the players are able to get on the road as well.

“I think the toughest thing is the early morning testing,” Rudy Gobert explained. “It’s been tough on the road when we don’t have anything before 11 a.m. and we have to wake up at 8 to test. And then you go back to your room, and you just wait in the room for two hours. That’s the one thing — when it takes away sleep, it makes it a little tougher.”

Those protocols vary from game to game and state to state — players and coaches cited California’s testing protocols as being more restrictive than the other states, for example.

In short, it seems like the lack of volume in fans might be made up for by the extra fatigue on the opponents visiting Vivint Arena. And when the Jazz are facing a tired team, at altitude, that’s unused to seeing fans at all, the complete recipe adds up to a still significant home-court advantage for the Jazz.

“It’s a special feeling honestly, to be able to know coming into the building like we have here at Vivint that we have an advantage,” Mike Conley said. “We always feel like that. Even when the stands are not completely full, we feel like we still have some of the best fans in the world.”