Road warriors: Jazz will try to pick up another road victory at OKC Tuesday night
OKLAHOMA CITY — Maybe it’s a good thing the NBA schedule-makers gave the Utah Jazz the third-most road games (15) in the following the All-Star break. Because playing on the road doesn’t seem to faze the Jazz in the least, as they have proved in two impressive double-digit victories since coming back from the nine-day break.
The second victory came Sunday evening against what had been the hottest team in the NBA, the Washington Wizards, at the Verizon Center. Except for a brief scare late in the game when the Wizards pulled within six, the Jazz were in control most of the way in an impressive 102-92 win over John Wall and company.
That helped the Jazz improve to 17-11 on the road, which is nearly as good as their home record of 20-11, and to 37-22 overall, fourth-best in the Western Conference. The Jazz have one more road game left on this six-day road trip Tuesday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder at 6 p.m. MT at the Chesapeake Arena.
As happy as he is with the Jazz wins, coach Quin Snyder doesn’t want to get overly excited about the back-to-back victories.
“Well, about a week ago we had lost two or three games in a row at home,” he said after the win in Washington. “To me, this is a good win and every loss is a bad loss. I just want to see us continue to get better. We’ll have a big game coming up, third game of a road trip and that’s pretty much what it’s like for the rest of the season.”
Jazz point guard George Hill didn’t bite when asked why the Jazz are playing so well on the road, saying, “All the guys are playing together. We just play the game.” However, Hill did acknowledge what a big road win the Washington victory was.
“It’s very special to go into someone’s place and beat them especially when they’re one of the best teams in the NBA and their home record is one of the best,” he said. “After the All-Star break, you want to be that team that gets better and not that team that decreases. That’s the focus in our heads to continue to get better down the stretch here and make a good run to the playoffs.”
Gordon Hayward, who scored 29 and 30 points, respectively, in the two victories including two big shots in Sunday’s win, gives credit to the Jazz defense.
“I think we’re guarding people,” he said. “We’re playing good defensively. It’s giving us a chance whether we’re making shots or not. When we have those runs where we can’t seem to put it in the basket, we’re still in the game. That’s been huge for us.”
The Jazz have a tough defensive task Tuesday night in trying to slow down Russell Westbrook, who has 29 triple-doubles this year. The guy who beat the Jazz with a last-second shot last month in Salt Lake is still averaging a triple-double with averages of 31.0 points, 10.6 rebounds and 10.3 assists per game.
Westbrook picked up some extra help at the trade deadline last week, when the Thunder acquired Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott from the Chicago Bulls. OKC also got former Jazzman Enes Kanter back in the lineup after he missed 10 games because of a broken arm he caused when he slammed his fist into a chair. In Sunday’s win over New Orleans, Kanter scored 20 points on 6-of-9 shooting and had nine rebounds.
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JAZZ NOTES: The Jazz didn’t have any back-to-backs on this road trip, but will have a back-to-back with a Wednesday night home game against Minnesota.
Utah will play twice at OKC within two weeks, with another game at Chesapeake Arena on March 11.
The Jazz have already played the Thunder twice at home, winning 109-89 in December and losing 97-95 in January.
Utah ranks No. 1 in the NBA in points allowed (95.?) and are third in field goal percentage defense (43.9 percent).
The Jazz have jumped from No. 8 to No. 4 in latest SI Power Poll.
Utah had one of its best rebounding performances of the season, outboarding Washington 52-27.
The Jazz more than doubled their season average of 12.4 turnovers per game with a season-high 25 against Washington. George Hill had five, while Dante Exum and Rudy Gobert each had four.
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Published at Tue, 28 Feb 2017 03:08:00 +0000