Utah Jazz: Are two straight wins a sign of turning things around?

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - JANUARY 20: The Utah Jazz celebrate during the game against the LA Clippers on January 20, 2018 at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - JANUARY 20: The Utah Jazz celebrate during the game against the LA Clippers on January 20, 2018 at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Utah Jazz have strung together a nice little winning streak with road victories over the Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors. But can they keep it up?

Prior to last night’s incredible win over the Toronto Raptors, the Utah Jazz hadn’t won two consecutive games in nearly two months. It seemed that every time they would come up big and earn a monumental victory, they’d simply follow it up with an absolute dud. Last Friday’s loss to the New York Knicks and Monday’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks were perfect examples of that.

And speaking of Utah’s defeat at the hands of the Hawks earlier this week, once the Jazz dropped that game, I was less than optimistic about their chances of finding much success at all for the remainder of the week, or the season, to be frank. If someone had told me after that game that Utah would then go on to finally earn two straight victories against the Detroit Pistons and stellar Toronto Raptors, on the road no less, I would have likely scoffed at the notion.

Nevertheless, here we are. In as confusing of fashion as you’ll see, the Jazz, one of the worst road teams in the league managed to defeat the Toronto Raptors, the best home team in the league.

And while I’m wary to get my hopes up as it seems every time I’ve made that mistake this season it’s resulted in a major let-down, after seeing the way that Utah’s two pillars – Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert – played in Toronto, one of the most hostile environments in the NBA, I can’t help but wonder if this latest victory is a sign of an impending upswing.

Mitchell finished the game with 26 points on 9-of-20 (45 percent) shooting from the field and 4-of-7 (57.1 percent) from deep to lead all scorers, while Gobert put up 18 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and logged a pair of blocks in a performance that was finally reminiscent of the All-NBA center of a year ago. A return to full health, game shape and total comfort with his teammates will certainly work wonders for Rudy and after seeing how he looked in Friday’s win, it’s not outlandish to believe that he and the team may very well be in for a major upswing.

In addition to those two, I have to give credit where it’s due and lay some major praise on a guy I’ve been pretty tough on this season – Ricky Rubio. Rubio played his heart out on Friday and finished the game with 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting and went 2-of-3 from deep, including the dagger that sealed the game for the Jazz. He also added six rebounds, six assists and a pair of steals, rounding out a well-stuffed stat sheet.

Ricky’s effort has never been in question, but his execution frequently has, so it was good to see a reversal of that. And while it’s taken longer than most Jazz fans would have thought or liked, it appears that perhaps he’s finally beginning to become assimilated with his teammates. If that chemistry can blossom as well as the chemistry between Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, the Jazz could very well be in for an exciting and successful conclusion to the season.

The immediate road ahead doesn’t get any easier as after three days off, the Utah Jazz will host the Golden State Warriors, then visit the San Antonio Spurs mere days later on the second night of a back-to-back. They’ll need to take some serious momentum into those games to keep up their winning ways.

However, the rest of February and most of March is a much easier slate for the Jazz and especially considering the recent struggles of the Denver Nuggets, the inconsistency of the Portland Trail Blazers and the unfortunate Achilles injury to New Orleans Pelicans star DeMarcus Cousins, it’s entirely possible that a current playoff team could slip out and the Jazz could make a push to find their way back among those ranks.

Sure, I’m almost certainly getting ahead of myself. After all, Utah is still just 21-28, 4.5 games out of eighth place and it just took them almost two months to string together a mere two-game winning streak. This recent mini-run could potentially be nothing more than that. If Utah goes on to post an 0-3 week next week against Golden State, Phoenix (where they struggled on the road earlier in the season) and San Antonio, then it may be clear that fortune just isn’t on their side.

Sadly, based on what we’ve seen this season, a return to slumping would be pretty much par for the course.

However, on the flip side of things, I can’t overstate how big of a win the victory in Toronto was. The Raptors are a team that has been among the NBA’s elite this season and has looked nearly unbeatable on their home court, especially against a squad such as the Jazz that has been so dismal on the road. Not only that, but Gobert’s healthy return and a bump in cohesion could very well help this team return to a playoff-caliber form.

Next: Utah Jazz reaction: Rubio’s big three gives Jazz second straight win

It may be too little, too late or the recent play may be nothing more than a lucky little hot streak, but the Jazz finally have looked somewhat more like the team we thought they’d be coming into this season the past two games. And if that’s not fluke – if it’s something they can maintain for the rest of the year – we could be in for a fun conclusion to the 2017-18 season.