There's No Place Like Home

by Bill Lea

First off, can we all just take a collective sigh of relief and thank the basketball God’s for not allowing Jerry Sloan to be the next head coach of the Lakers. As soon as the news came down that Mike Brown was fired (after 5 games, really??) you could feel the anxiety start to creep over Utah. My phone was blowing up: “Is Jerry going to the Lake Show??”, “No way Jerry goes to LA right? Right?”, “It’s done man, it’s happening again, first Karl and now Jerry”. Everything is ok, it didn’t happen, so how about we stop talking about the Lakers and get to the Jazz!

How about this season so far? The Jazz are a perfect 3-0 at, as Randy Foye calls it, “The Solution”’; Knocking off the pesky Suns and big time opponents like the Dallas Mavericks and the aforementioned Los Angeles Lakers. They have looked good doing it too, leading the Lakers from wire-to-wire and having big leads against both the Mavericks and Suns. Then, there are the road games, where after the triple overtime thriller against the Raptors the Jazz have moved to 1-4 away from Salt Lake City.

So what is it about playing in Salt Lake that makes the Jazz invincible? First, the fans; Jazz fans are NUTS. With the Jazz being the only team in town, unless you like soccer, it is a year round love affair for our Jazz and when it’s game time there is no holding back. Energy Solutions has consistently been voted as one of the toughest places to play in the league, coming in only behind OKC as the toughest place to play in the annual NBA GM off-season poll before this season. Players feed off of that energy and it is something that shouldn’t be overlooked when examining why Utah is so good at home.

After accounting for the fans you need to go to the numbers. The Jazz shoot 46% at home while scoring 101 points a night. They allow opponents to shoot 37% while only giving up 87 points. Looks like a pretty good recipe for success, good shooting, with lots of players getting involved in the offense and scoring as well as solid D; not allowing teams to get out and run getting easy baskets.

So what does it look like on the road? The Jazz, surprisingly average 101 points as well on the road, the 140 point game against the Raptors helped bump that average up (91% before that game). They shoot 45%, so offensively not too bad. Looking at the defensive numbers is where you find the answer to why the Jazz are 1-4 on the road. They give up 108 points and allow opponents to shoot 47%.

In order for the Jazz to be a playoff contender they will need to get their issues on the defensive end figured out. With the Jazz being so great at home, it’s not like they need to be world beaters on the road; but they most definitely need to be better than the 11-22 record they posted last year. If the Jazz are able to go .500, or at least close, they will have a great shot of making the playoffs because of how many wins they will get at home.

Ok, let’s talk about this Raptors game for a minute. I would have had this done about two hours ago but the game wouldn’t end. Let’s be honest, it should not have been close. The Raptors were 1-5, they were missing three players, including Kyle Lowry, their starting point guard and leading scorer and honestly, Toronto is just not that good. The Jazz did not lead at any point during regulation and needed an Al Jefferson three (yeah, not a typo, I said AL JEFFERSON) with two seconds left to send the game to overtime.
The Jazz finally took their first lead of the game with the first two points in OT and the two teams would continue to slug it out until finally the Jazz outlasted the Raptors winning in triple OT. So, with that negativity aside, this is a GREAT win for the Jazz.

It’s their first road win of the season, so no matter how ugly it was, they’ll take it. They won a game where they didn’t play their best, didn’t get all the calls and had most bounces go against them. And maybe, most importantly, games like these tend to pull teams together (remember the 4 OT’s against Atlanta last season).

So while it is still early Jazz fans, there are reasons to be hopeful for this season; especially if that triple overtime thriller can be a turning point for winning on the road, by any means necessary. We Are Utah Jazz!