Remember when Dennis Green said the Utah Jazz "are who we thought they (might be if they'd only play like they now are, which is way better than they) were?" Or something like that. Five reasons why the red-hot Jazz have won eight straight, 12 of 13 and are who Dennis thought they were:
Better team execution
Believe it or not, the Jazz were struggling only a month ago. Mightily even. They dropped 4 of 5, averaging only 89.3 points per setback. Then something odd happened. Deron Williams got hurt, and the team played better in his absence. Suddenly, fun was had by all — even more so after Williams returned — and the Jazz have been passing, scoring, smiling and singing campfire songs together since. The standings and opponents have noticed. "I think offensively they have gotten their efficiency back," Denver coach George Karl said after Utah's 116-106 win Saturday. "They are really moving the ball." No kidding. During its 12-of-13 win spurt, Utah has averaged about two more assists than in the previous 36 games. The Jazz have also shot lights out — 52.8 percent from the field (up from 48.0) and 38.7 percent on 3s (up 4.1 percent). Most important: They've averaged 110.8 points the past 13 games compared to 99.5 ppg the previous 36.
Jazz have D-Will to win
The turnaround might be pinpointed to the Memphis games he sat out in early January, but Williams has proven to be a worthy member of the All-Star card-carrying club. Without him, the Jazz can win here and there. With him, they can win everywhere. (Yes, that's from a Dr. Seuss book about D-Will.) He's the one pouring the oil in the Jazz's well-oiled machine. P.S. Fans who love to hate Dirk Nowitzki might consider the following quote before booing him next time: "Actually, to me, he's probably the best point guard in the league right now," Nowitzki told ESPN.com of the Jazz star. "I'd actually take him over (Chris) Paul and the rest of them because he's a big guard who can do it all."
From Russia (and the Bayou) with love
Carlos Boozer called Andrei Kirilenko "the X-factor" recently. And it's certainly true. During this hot streak, Andrei has played like a giant (but better than the wrestler, RIP, with that name). Same goes for Paul Millsap, especially during this eight-game winning streak as he's averaged 18.8 points and eight boards.
That thing called 'defense' is catching on
It's fun to talk about offense, but let's not give all the attention to the offensive side of the court. (Just in case Jerry Sloan reads this column.) The Jazz have been much more active defensively, which has played a big factor. Teams have actually scored a point more per game (98.5 ppg) during the 12-of-13 stretch, BUT opponents are only shooting 43.1 percent from the field (down 2.5 percent), and Utah has increased its steals (from 7.2 to 9.5 spg) and its blocked shots (from 4.4 to 6.2 bpg).
Big Gaines: The gem from the Gem State
When Sundiata Gaines was introduced in Utah, a TV reporter asked the Idaho D-Leaguer if he was brought in to be the team's savior. It seemed like a silly question. Still does. But Utah has gone 13-2 since his arrival, and he's contributed to four Ws, including one vs. the CavaLeBrons. That's gotta count for something.