SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz made easy work of the Los Angeles Lakers, beating them 114-89 on Wednesday. The Jazz have the best record in the league (26-6) and just smashed the defending champs (sans Anthony Davis), so let's looks at the talking points from KSL.com commenters.
"It seems with every Jazz win, the national media makes excuses for the losing team. Here is a hint...maybe the Jazz are just good." — Ralph1776
Here's the thing: The Jazz don't look like a traditional contender. Their best player, Rudy Gobert, really only touches the ball when he's getting a lob or doing a dribble hand-off. Donovan Mitchell is the closest thing to a household name, but he's still an undersized shooting guard. In the end, Utah is an elite team without an MVP candidate or a strong pedigree — there just haven't been a lot of regular contenders that look like that.
Now, that doesn't mean the Jazz can't make a deep run, and there is nothing about their current level of play that screams "this is unsustainable!"
Sure, over the last two games they have shot over 48% from 3 while making 50 triples — a league-record for a two-game span — but in the previous seven games they shot over 40% from 3 just once. This isn't some crazy hot streak; it's the Jazz perfectly buying into an identity.
And it's not just the national media that has had some doubts. Utah's latest opponent seems to have some, as well.
Before Wednesday's game, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel credited Utah's continuity for its hot start — but did so in a somewhat backhanded way.
"Continuity always helps you earlier in the season. We had situations in Indiana where we really got off (to) strong starts when we didn't change the roster much. That doesn't necessarily mean that's gonna pay the biggest dividends down the stretch in the playoffs," Vogel said.
That sentiment was slightly echoed by Markieff Morris following the 25-point rout.
"Our whole preparation is preparing for the playoffs," Morris said. "We see the Jazz — we know they beat our ass tonight, but in the playoffs is a different story."
Vogel, though, did throw some genuine praise onto the Jazz, saying, "They got a great team. I thought coming into last season when they added (Mike) Conley and (Bojan) Bogdanovic, that they were going to have the type of season that they're having right now."
"Love the winning but playing these teams that don't have their best players creates a false confidence. The last 2 losses were to the Clippers at full strength and the Nuggets at full strength. They have not beat any other team above .500 at full strength. I hope that doesn't come back to bite them in the playoffs." — Tdawgs
Utah's resume over the last couple of weeks is quite impressive with wins over Boston, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, the Clippers and Lakers, plus some more. February was supposed to be a brutal stretch — the Jazz have lost just once. But, yes, some of those wins do come with asterisks.
The Celtics didn't have Marcus Smart. The Bucks didn't have Jrue Holiday. The 76ers were without Joel Embiid. Both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were out for the Clippers. The Lakers were without Anthony Davis.
The pessimist could say that's the reason the Jazz are winning, but Utah has beat those teams by an average of 16.4 points. Let's not pretend these wins are simply a case of catching teams at the right time — and remember, the Jazz have gone 6-0 without Conley and 2-0 without Mitchell this season, so they've had guys miss games, too.
Utah has a 13-4 record against .500 or better teams. Not all those wins have come against shorthanded teams, but some of the losses have.
Following Wednesday's game, Mitchell reminded everyone what happened when Kevin Durant sat out when Utah played the Nets in January: the Jazz lost big.
"The other guys on that team, their level rose," Mitchell said. "There's been a few instances where guys have been out and guys' levels just rise."
The Jazz didn't let that happen against an undermanned Lakers team. So while they don't quite know how they would stack up against a full-strength Lakers club, they at least had that fact to hang their hat on.
"There wasn't a moment in the game where we played like we were up, and I think that was something that was impressive," Mitchell said. "Obviously, the ball moving, the defense was great; but our relentlessness was something that we can applaud ourselves for."
"What fun to beat the Lakers and in fact - blow them away!! Great game guys. Keep on rollin'" — CommonSense !.
We chose this one to serve as a reminder: enjoy this run. It might not mean playoff glory will certainly come, or the Jazz will hoist their first Larry O'Brien trophy, but the Jazz are playing at a level that has only been seen by some of the greatest teams in NBA history.
Utah currently has a net rating of 10.3; only seven teams in league history have produced a better mark over the course of a full season, according to Statmuse. Five of those teams won championships ('92 Bulls, '96 Bulls, '97 Bulls, '17 Warriors, '08 Celtics), another won 73 games ('16 Warriors), and another lost to a team that won 73 games ('16 Spurs).
The Jazz are really good. So, yes, what fun.