The Utah Jazz Are Now a 40-Win Team, It’s Time They Started Acting Like It

Mar 5, 2017; Sacramento, CA, USA; Utah Jazz guard George Hill (3) celebrates after a play against the Sacramento Kings ahead of Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) during the fourth quarter at Golden 1 Center. The Utah Jazz defeated the Sacramento Kings 110-109 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 5, 2017; Sacramento, CA, USA; Utah Jazz guard George Hill (3) celebrates after a play against the Sacramento Kings ahead of Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) during the fourth quarter at Golden 1 Center. The Utah Jazz defeated the Sacramento Kings 110-109 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports /

Last night the fourth-place Utah Jazz became just the sixth NBA team to log 40 wins so far this season. It’s time they started playing consistently with a matching level of dominance.

With 18 games still left in the regular season to improve, the Utah Jazz notched their 40th win of the season by defeating the New Orleans Pelicans last night. Considering that last season the Jazz ended the year with exactly 40 wins, their improvement this season has been impeccable.

If the Jazz keep up their current win percentage over the final stretch of games, they’ll finish as a 51-win team. For a bit of reference, that many wins last season would have put them firmly in fifth place in the West. Hopefully they can finish at least one spot better than that this time around.

Nevertheless, while the Jazz have certainly performed better this season than what many expected, their ceiling and their floor have been starkly different. The team has shown on multiple occasions that they’re capable of great things as evidenced by their early road win over the Spurs, a dominant victory over the Rockets in late November and a statement win over the Cavs in early January, to name a few.

These games are likely the among the ones that stand out the most to casual fans, who view these stirring victories as well as Utah’s impressive 40-24 record as concrete evidence that the team has arrived and is a force to be reckoned with.

And while in many ways they’re absolutely right, those of us who have followed the Jazz religiously this season know that that record is made up as well of many disheartening losses and even several wins that have come in less than convincing fashion.

While of course every team goes through their inconsistencies over the course of an 82-game season, few have been more notoriously up and down than the Jazz.

For instance, we’re talking about a Jazz team that recently won four straight then fell flat on their face and lost to a lackluster Dallas Mavericks team, a Jazz team that earlier in the season won six straight then buckled in consecutive losses to the Thunder and Nuggets and perhaps the worst of all, a Jazz team that hasn’t beaten a Western Conference playoff team since December 18th.

That includes four teams that Utah beat to 40 wins that they haven’t been able to get it done against. Utah is currently 0-2 against the Warriors, 1-1 against the Spurs, 1-1 against the Rockets, 0-2 against the Clippers, 1-3 against the Grizzlies, 1-2 against the Thunder and 2-2 against the Nuggets.

Those kind of head-to-head match-ups against teams mainly comprised of highly-experienced playoff-savvy veterans is not a great sign for the Jazz.

Don’t get me wrong, my intention in this piece isn’t to simply rag on the Jazz or cry that all is lost, rather it’s simply to point out that for a team whose record states that they’re formidable, they need to start playing the part. I truly believe this is a good Jazz team and one that is capable of being a force to be reckoned with. However, what I believe doesn’t make an ounce of difference. It all depends on what the team itself believes and how they play with that belief.

For instance, the Jazz have recently made light work of teams such as the Bucks, Wizards, Hawks and Pelicans to name a few. Sure, it’s not much of an argument to say that all of those teams are more vulnerable and less talented than the aforementioned Western Conference powerhouses, but the simple truth is that there has been a noticeable difference in the way Utah has played against those opponents as compared to their closest playoff foes.

While the Jazz have come out with confidence against those Eastern Conference opponents, they’ve looked notably timid in recent contests against the likes of the Thunder, Clippers and Grizzlies. That timidness has, for example, allowed the Thunder to get off to a 12-of-12 start from three, the Clippers to hold the Jazz to just 32.2 percent shooting and the Grizzlies to bully the Jazz on their home court, to name a few recent such instances.

Of course all of those foes are undeniably good teams, but the Jazz ought to be better than to allow those kinds of things to happen to them on any kind of consistent basis. And yet, despite boasting an elite defense, plenty of depth and an All-Star in Gordon Hayward, Utah has failed to put together enough consistency to stave off the best of the best.

Nevertheless, Utah’s record says a lot in and of itself. Just think, the Jazz have arrived to 40 wins before the likes of the Clippers, Wizards, Raptors, Grizzlies, Thunder, Hawks and Pacers. Those are all teams who have made noise in the playoffs in recent years and Utah is outpacing them all so far.

Furthermore, there are several convincing stats that show just how daunting of a foe the Jazz truly are. For example, they are first in the league in opponent points per game (96.0), second in opponent field goal percentage (44.0 percent), second in opponent three-point makes per game (8.3), fourth in plus-minus (+4.3), fourth in rebounding differential (+2.7), third in defensive rating (101.6) and fourth in net rating (5.2).

While some may argue that a couple of these are a result of Utah’s slow pace, others are very concrete proof that the Jazz are simply a solid squad. Particularly on the defensive end, the Jazz are getting it done. So much so, that their defense is allowing them to have one of the league’s best net ratings despite a truthfully mediocre offense.

Nevertheless, for all those positive and encouraging statistics, there seem to be just as many areas where Utah has been noticeably weak. For instance, they rank 28th in points per game (100.3), 28th in assists per game (19.6), 13th in turnovers per game (13.7), 28th in steals per game (6.9), 25th in assist ratio (16.0) and 22nd in free throw percentage (75.4 percent).

Not to mention, while some may attribute their low points and assists per game to the Jazz’s slower pace, the fact that their field goal percentage, three-point percentage and offensive efficiency all rank near the middle of the league (12th, 14th and 13th, respectively) goes to show that the simple fact of the matter is that Utah’s offense needs some work. The low assists and assist ratio are further proof of their often stagnant offense.

And some of the aforementioned low rankings such as turnovers and free throw percentage might not seem that vital, but could be difference makers come playoff time.

Of course, it’s impossible and extremely unrealistic to expect any team to finish atop each and every statistical category (not even the Golden State Warriors can do that), and obviously every team has their strengths and weaknesses, their ups and their downs.

However, as a team that now officially has 40 wins, has a clearly dominant defense and has shown time and time again that they’re capable of playing at a high level, the Utah Jazz absolutely need to bring that confidence and cohesion into every game, particularly against playoff-caliber opponents.

Rather than see the Clippers as the closest team in the standings, or the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook as a nearly unstoppable star, the Jazz need to face opponents such as those as if they’re just another beatable opponent.

Although it isn’t a measurable statistic (at least last time I checked), if Utah can bring the same kind of “swagger” that they play with against the likes of some of the lesser teams they’ve faced to the games against top Western Conference foes, they should very well find themselves able to surge even further above their current 40-game mark and 51-win pace.

And a team like that can without a doubt compete with and beat its closest competitors in the conference standings. Despite some of the results so far, the Jazz can and should be that kind of team.

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Utah will have plenty of opportunities to prove to themselves and to the rest of the league that they are indeed an elite force and deserving of home court advantage in the playoffs in the coming days. Beginning with tomorrow’s bout against the Rockets, Utah will play seven straight games against playoff teams with six of them coming on the road.

These will all be critical contests where the confident, cohesive Jazz team that die-hard fans have witnessed on several occasions will need to be in action. Utah has the stats and the skills to challenge any team in this league and as soon as they play as if they have that belief in themselves no matter who the opponent, it’s going to be an enormous step forwards for them.

This 40-win Utah Jazz squad is an excellent team. It’s time they started acting like it.

All stats courtesy of and