Utah Jazz: ‘Minivan’ tuning up for playoff road trips

Utah Jazz forward Georges Niang (Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz forward Georges Niang (Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports) /

It’s imperative that the Utah Jazz ‘Minivan’ keeps vrooming away from home.

Former second-round pick Georges Niang is the only bench player who has appeared in every game thus far across the Utah Jazz’s league-leading 44-15 campaign.

And on Wednesday night in an eventual 112-89 win at the Houston Rockets (15-44), the fifth-year pro out of Iowa State helped to ensure early on that the two teams’ records would remain exact opposites.

With a splash from 26 feet out at the buzzer to end the first quarter, Niang gave the Jazz a 34-27 advantage. One minute into the second quarter, his deep bomb extended the lead to 39-27. Four minutes after that, the 6-foot-7, 230-pound forward’s third triple pushed the score to 47-32, making clear that the contest wouldn’t be much of a contest at all.

It wasn’t.

An encouraging road outing from the Utah Jazz’s ‘ninth man’

Georges Niang scored only once more the rest of the way following his three 3-pointers in less than five minutes. Plus, it’s not as if his 13 points, three rebounds, three assists, and one steal across 21 minutes of action in Houston constitute a stellar stat line.

On the other hand, it was arguably the best performance this season by the 27-year-old “Minivan” beyond Utah’s border. It was only the second time this go-round that Niang has knocked down three 3-pointers on the road; consider that his number of makes from downtown in a home game has reached seven once and been four or more on five separate occasions.

Yes, although Niang’s positive team-first vibes never wane on the road, his shooting stroke seizes up more times than not. In fact, at home in 2020-21, the Massachusetts native is shooting a blistering 47.2 percent beyond the arc; compare that to his discouraging 31.8 percent on the road, which even factors in his latest 3-for-5 clip versus the Rockets.

On the road, Niang is still putting up only 4.5 points and 2.2 boards per game. At home, those averages are 7.3 and 2.5, respectively.

Of course, Utah is likely to earn homecourt advantage for most of the playoffs. Yet seeing that the squad’s 18-12 road record is a far cry from its 26-3 mark at home, the Jazz sure could use any help they can get from Niang when it comes time for postseason trips.

Now, whether home or away, if only the sharpshooting specialist could figure out a way to get to the charity stripe a bit more often in spite of his limited athleticism. After all, he’s yet to miss a free throw this season — albeit with only nine attempts.

Georges Niang and the Utah Jazz are next set to host the Minnesota Timberwolves (16-44) at 7 p.m. MT Saturday. Then, they begin a pivotal three-game road trip that concludes against the Phoenix Suns (42-16), who have already beaten Utah twice and currently sit No. 2 in the Western Conference standings, only 1.5 games back.

dark. Next. The 50 greatest Utah Jazz players of all time

Needless to say, it wouldn’t hurt if the currently well-oiled “Minivan” regularly fires on all cylinders outside the Vivint Arena.