After starting out the season with 7 wins and 11 losses, the Utah Jazz were struggling to find their identity. A big part of the early struggles were due to an inability to score the basketball at a high level. Despite this slow start, the Jazz are on a roll and have managed to win five straight games. During this streak, the Jazz are outscoring their opponents by an average of over 19 points per game. Quite honestly, the team we see now and the team we saw, to begin with, are completely different. Let us take a look at what is contributing to this team’s success.
Behind the Utah Jazz Five-Game Win Streak
Missing Rudy Gobert
Let us get something clear; Gobert is an outstanding all-star calibre player in this league. What he does defensively cannot be replaced. But is it possible that his absence in these past 11 games have actually been a blessing? During this streak, we have seen an increase in the productivity of Derrick Favors. We have also seen more minutes out of Jonas Jerebko, who is proving to be a solid stretch 4. It is possible that when Gobert returns there will be some growing pains. But if Gobert comes back full strength and Favors is able to continue to produce like he is now, we are looking at possibly the best defensive front-court in the league.
We have learned from the best teams in the league that having a stretch four is vital to compete at a high level. Look at the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. Draymond Green and Kevin Love provide spacing for the offense which opens up driving lanes. When you have a power forward that can not only play down low but can also shoot the three, the defense does not have the luxury of camping out in the paint. They are forced to move out and guard. During the past five games, the Jazz have seen that same effect by the abilities of Jerebko. He is shooting 48.8 percent from beyond the arc. Even though he is not shooting often, his percentage alone attracts the defense, opening up opportunities for other players.
Donovan Mitchell on Fire
The last and most important reason for the Jazz’s recent success is attributed to the great play from rookie Mitchell. In the past five games, Mitchell has averaged 21.8 points per game on 46.8 percent shooting, providing the much-needed scoring that had been non-existent earlier in the season. Mitchell’s greatest performance came against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday (December 1st). He became the first rookie since Blake Griffin in 2011 to score 40 or more points in a game. He dominated in the second half with 29 of his 41 coming after halftime. Mitchell also broke a Jazz record, previously held by Darrell Griffith, for most points by a Jazz rookie.
The Jazz are back in action versus the Washington Wizards on Monday (December 4th). They will have to contain the likes of John Wall and Bradley Beal to keep this streak alive. It will be a great test and may show how for real this team is.