Donovan Mitchell and Quin Snyder in Utah’s win over Dallas. (Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News)
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SALT LAKE CITY – With their 120-105 victory over Portland on Wednesday, the Utah Jazz extended their best-game winning streak on the road to eight games.
The Jazz are proving to be some of the best road teams in the league. They are 12-3 in Salt Lake City and have a better net plus-12.0 on the road. But during their winning streak on the road, the Jazz have also lost four home games so, to be frank, quite disconcerting.
They lost on last-second (or almost last-second) shots to the New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies, then followed a four-game road sweep with back-to-back home losses to below average opponents.
So what gives?
“Well, it’s not that we don’t like playing at home and it’s not our fans, so you can take those two things out,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said.
To be fair, Utah has been far from awful at Vivint Arena. The Jazz are 13-6 and if you take the two last-second losses away, the road-to-home story probably doesn’t exist.
Utah, after all, has the third-best net score in home games over-9.1; it’s still really very good. The two teams they are watching, however, are the same teams that are also ahead of them in the Western Conference standings: Golden State and Phoenix.
The Suns have been three games better than the Jazz at home; the Warriors were four. Without a few woes at home, the Jazz would be exactly where they were last year – holding the NBA’s best record. For Snyder, this is more of a coincidence than anything else.
“I think the record is sometimes misleading because you can play at home or on the road when your team is playing well, or when you are not playing as well,” Snyder said. “We lost a few tight home games that I thought shouldn’t have been close – we lost them on the last possession – so there are two of them out there where we weren’t really playing well at the basketball, and it shows. “
Rudy Gobert, however, said there might be something to the narrative after all. He admitted that the road games were more like a “mission” that the team could fully focus on together.
“We fly together, we stay together in the same hotel, and then we go to the game,” said Gobert. “Maybe sometimes when we’re at home we’re a little more distracted and we’re not as good.”
Gobert said the team have looked fresher on the road this season – a stark contrast to how things normally go in the league.
That said, Gobert has made it clear that he doesn’t know the real reason for the discrepancy between the home and road records, and the narrative is about to be heavily contested.
The Jazz will get a few tough home games this weekend – the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday, then the top-ranked Warriors on Saturday – before heading off for a busy month of travel. In January, Utah will play 11 of its 16 road games. When the calendar came out it looked like a daunting task.
Now, that begs this question: could this actually be a good thing?
“We’re going to find out if we can continue to be as effective,” Snyder said.