Last week, before the Jazz started their six-game Eastern Conference swing, I wrote that the Jazz had become a team of streaks. With momentum in their pocket riding two straight wins they took to the skies looking to keep the West’s phenomenal record (62-24 before Wednesday) against the East intact.
So far, it hasn’t happened that way. Three games into the trip the Jazz are 0-3. They immediately dropped any budding momentum with a 20-point loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Kyrie Irving can take a lot of credit for ruining Trey Burke’s return to his home state. Irving snagged a triple-double with 21 points, 12 assists and 10 boards.
The Jazz followed that effort by traveling to the NBA-leading Indiana Pacers team and battling to a three-point loss. Derrick Favors again had a good showing against Roy Hibbert and company. Favors threw down a double-double and help Pacers center to just two points on 1-9 shooting.
While the close game in Indiana was encouraging, the Jazz backslid when they were beat handily by the cellar-dwelling Milwaukee Bucks. In the Bucks loss Enes Kanter had his most impressive game offensively. Shooting 50 percent from the field, he scored a career-high 27 points, Kanter put the cherry on top knocking down 11-12 from the charity stripe. He was outshined by fellow-countryman Ersan Ilyasova though who missed only one shot on his way to 31 points.
So, again the Jazz are streaking with three consecutive losses. During this last stretch there has been little to praise outside of the strong showing in Indiana. With the team facing three more games on the road (against a team they beat, one they lost to and one they haven’t seen yet) can they turn things around and come avoid coming home winless?
The Jazz start the second half of the road trip in the nation’s capital playing John Wall and the Wizards (31-29). Wall struggled in the first meeting and the Jazz snuck out of Energy Solutions Arena with a 101-104 win. It was a huge effort from the Utah bench that made the difference as they outscored the Wizards’ subs 52-18.
Kanter and Burks really performed well as the Wizards couldn’t find an answer for Burks slashing. The only player in the starting lineup that came away from the first matchup with a positive ratio was Gordon Hayward. Look for him to continue his recent upswing, during the last five games he’s been shooting six percent better than his season average.
After waving goodbye to the many monuments on Wednesday night, the Jazz will find themselves in New York City ready to go against Carmelo Anthony and whoever else the Knicks (21-40) throw-out on the court. The Knicks’ struggles have been well-documented this season and the Jazz should have a good chance heading into Madison Square Garden and coming out with a win.
For the final leg of this near two-week journey, The Jazz head to Philadelphia. In the first meeting Utah came out on top 100-105 heading into the All-Star break. This time we get another chance to see Michael Carter-Williams go against burke. Only one player separated them in last summer’s draft.
In the first meeting MCW came out on top of the head-to-head battle even if Burke’s team won the battle. You can read about the match-up here. Again it was the bench that carried Utah absolutely dominating the Philly bench 56-10.
One of the biggest things to look for this time around will be if Burke has learned how to negate the advantage MCW gains with his length. Burke had a really hard time on both ends of the court dealing with his height.
As far as the rest of the team goes, its pretty safe to expect a dominating experience. The 76ers have only gotten worse since the first meeting and look dead-set at having the most ping-pong balls in this summer’s draft lottery. A Jazz loss here would be surprising but not game is a guarantee after being on the road as long as Utah has.
In a few days time we’ll all know if the Jazz are prepared to start streaking back in the win column. They return home to play Paul Millsap and the Atlanta Hawks on Monday.