Photo via Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images
Allowing 120-plus points in any NBA contest, even if the league is high-scoring to begin with, would humble any team regardless of the outcome in the win-loss department.
Such was the case for the Utah Jazz on Jan. 31. Trekking into Ball Arena with a glossy 11-game-winning streak, the Jazz were looking to continue their winning fortunes by tearing apart a porous Denver Nugget defense.
To play devil’s advocate, the Jazz did do their respective damage against their Western Conference counterpart – the team collectively shot 43% from beyond the arc (20-47) and made 33 of 39 free throws for an 85% free throw percentage (FT%). Not bad, right?
The problem came in their defensive performance. The Jazz, over the course of their game against Denver, allowed 47 field goals out of 87 attempts for a .540 field goal percentage (FG%). This opponent field goal percentage is currently the second-worst opponent field goal percentage among 25 Jazz games this season (they allowed a .559 FG% against the Brooklyn Nets on Jan. 5). Then, there was the three-point defensive struggle, where the Jazz allowed 18 three-pointers to splash through out of 28 total attempts This .643 three-point percentage (3P%) currently ranks as the worst opponent 3P% out of their 25 games played. Their next closest opponent 3P% is 52% against the Phoenix Suns on Dec. 31. Last, but certainly not least, came the total points conceded. Utah’s 128 points allowed during the 128-117 loss was the second-most points allowed in any of their 25 games this season (they allowed 130 to Brooklyn on Jan. 5).
For up-and-coming teams, a loss of this magnitude could spell the end to any positive momentum swing the team possessed heading into the matchup. Perhaps the team would continue to get exposed. Maybe their flaws would only persist and create more losses on the schedule.
While they may be the case for other teams, it has not been the case for the Jazz.
To start, the Jazz are currently undefeated in the month of February. Yes, after getting walloped against Denver, the team has rebounded (no pun intended) and are currently riding a five-game winning streak after defeating the Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics. Of the five games, three (Atlanta, Charlotte and Indiana) came on the road.
Through the likes of Donovan Mitchell, Jordan Clarkson and Mike Conley, the Jazz are back to their explosive selves. Over the course of the winning streak, the Jazz are averaging 118.4 points per game and possess a crisp 47.7 FG%. Their prowess from beyond the three-point line has further padded their collective FG%, as the team has shot 41% from downtown. Their 83% FT% has also helped matters, sure, but what about the defense over the stretch? After all, this is what sunk them in their Denver game, did it not?
After their less than desirable performance against Denver, Utah has allowed only 104.0 opponent points per game during their current five-game winning streak. Allowing a much more manageable 41% opponent FG%, coupled with a 33 3P%, has been more than enough to counteract the sub-optimal performance a week-and-a-half ago.
While the winning streak should in no way crown the Jazz as 2021 NBA Champions, it does emphasize on one key trait the team possesses that could make them a potential contender for it. Sure, they might not have the star power of the Los Angeles Lakers or Clippers, but they are resilient. So resilient, in fact, that one bad game will not dictate their success over the course of their other games afterward.
Allowing 120-plus points in any game can humble any team, but for the really, really good ones, it can make them stronger in the long run. For the Utah Jazz, it has done just that.