Career highs aren’t supposed to happen this often. Right?
The past 10 days for the Utah Jazz have been memorable to say the least.
After knocking off Detroit 110-89 on Friday night, they’ve won three of their past five games and seem to be rolling. If they hadn’t nearly lost in San Antonio on Wednesday, then we’d have one of the hottest teams in the league on our hands.
The Jazz are healthy, beating good teams and putting up career high’s every night.
It all started last Tuesday when Gordon Hayward went off for a career high 37 points, adding 11 rebounds and seven assists to fill out a tremendous stat line. It was a fantastic game for Hayward as he lead the Jazz to a 112-101 win over Oklahoma City. Hayward didn’t just score a career high that night, out-dueling Kevin Durant (who had 48 points) but he scored 17 straight points in the fourth quarter. He hit shots from everywhere and it was fun watching him put the Jazz on his back and lead the team.
“I was definitely in a rhythm but the credit has to go to my teammates for playing hard and putting me in position to succeed,” Hayward said.
That’s Hayward for you. He has the best game of his career and then gives all the credit to his team. If that’s not a leader I don’t know what is.
Less than a week later, with Hayward on the shelf due to a strained hip flexor, Alec Burks stepped up and had a career night of his own against Denver.
The Nuggets came to town riding a five-game winning streak and seemed to be the hottest team in the league. The Jazz cooled them off quick, stepping on the gas from the get-go. The Jazz were balanced offensively with five players in double figures but Burks was the man that night. He hit 13-19 field goals and went a perfect 8-8 from the line on his way to a new career high 34 points. He added five assists and three rebounds for good measure. Simply, Burks was unstoppable against the Nuggets. He made their defense look like a high school team as he ran through, around and over them. It was a fantastic night for Burks as he stepped up with Hayward out of the lineup. After the game he was his usual, humble self.
“It was a great effort by everybody on the team tonight,” Burks said. “I happened to make some shots and we got the win.”
Two days later the Jazz found themselves in San Antonio to play the Spurs who have owned the Jazz over the past 15 years, especially in Texas.
The Jazz fell short in San Antonio, losing 109-105, but they turned a lot of heads with how good they are getting. The game was nationally televised and the entire country saw the promise and potential this young lineup has. The Spurs have won 50 + games every season since Enes Kanter was six years old, so it was impressive to see “Big Turk” do his thing against the vaunted Spurs.
Kanter scored a career high 25 points on 12-15 shooting and pulled down 11 rebounds in only 27 minutes off the bench. It didn’t matter who was guarding him as Kanter played his best game as a pro.
“I played ok but nothing matters if we don’t win,” Kanter said. “We need to play a full game. We’ll get better and come back strong next game.”
Kanter’s hustle and bruising post-play kept the Jazz in the game until rookie Trey Burke brought the Jazz as close as they would get.
Burke scored 11 points in the final 1:05 of the game and brought the Jazz within a grasp of victory. Even though it was Burke’s shot that got hot late, he dished out 11 assists in the game – a career high for him.
“We played the fourth quarter the way we were supposed to play in the third,” Burke said. “We know we have to play with a lot of intensity and we didn’t. They came out and they threw the first punch and they went on a run. We can’t dig ourselves a hole like that.”
This is what I love about Burke. He’s never satisfied. Sure, he hit some big shots and put up a career high in assists but he could care less. After the game you could see it in his face…he wanted that win. He’s a winner and he settles for nothing less. I think Jazz fans have seen this throughout his short career as he continues to impress. I know this – if Trey Burke is your point guard, then you are in good hands.
Last night saw yet another career high for the young Jazz player. Two days after setting his career mark in assists, Burke lead his team into Detroit and left with 110-89 victory over the Pistons. Burke struggled early but after the jitters of playing back in Michigan for the first time since leading his University of Michigan team, he settled down and played great. He put up 20 points and handed out a new career high 12 assists.
“It was a total team effort tonight,” Burke said. “We played together as a team from the start and made some plays out there. It was fun.”
The Jazz struggled early on in the season, starting 1-14. Since then they are 13-13 and playing their best basketball right now.
Four of the Jazz’s young guns set new career highs five times in the past 10 days. Sure, they are young and their career highs aren’t that high, but still, it’s actually very impressive when you think about it. These guys are getting better and it’s not a fluke. They are pushing each other in practice and it’s obvious that they are in no way content with losing.
It’s a credit to the coaching staff the way the young players are improving. From Coach Corbin all the way down to Johnnie Bryant and Alex Jensen, the coaching staff deserves a ton of credit for the development of their players.
This is an exciting time for Jazz fans as we’re seeing the birth of a new era. When the Jazz are in the thick of the playoff race in the coming season(s), I think we will remember this time as the time when they learned how to win and how to play together. The pieces are in place for the Jazz to be successful. It’s just a matter of continued growth and maturity.
Get on the bandwagon now.
Matt Sanchez is the digital content coordinator for the Utah Jazz. He’s the tall one. You can follow him on Twitter @RealMattSanchez.