Prior to the start of the season, the Utah Jazz were believed by many fans and analysts to be poised for a huge year.
After finishing last season with an impressive 53-29 overall record and a decisive first round playoff win over the Denver Nuggets before being swept by the eventual champion Lakers, the Jazz seemed ready to move from being a strong Western Conference team to an elite. And for the first half of this season, it seemed they would live up to these predictions, if not exceed them.
Cementing themselves as one of the best comeback teams in the league, the Jazz defeated the Heat after being down by as many as 22, the Lakers after a 19 point deficit, and even as recently as January 8th, bested the Rockets in overtime after closing a 16 point gap.
On the back of All-Star point guard Deron Williams, who is having a career year with 21.7 PPG to go with 9.5 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.18 steals, the Jazz rocketed to the top of the Northwest Division.
And then something went horribly, horribly wrong.
A 108-101 loss against the Washington Wizards was certainly uncharacteristic of the team's high level of play, but a single unexpected loss in an 82 game season is hardly unprecedented; even Michael Jordan's '96 Bulls lost a few times.The Wizards had one of their best performances of the season, with rookie point guard John Wall contributing 19 points and a career-high 15 assists, and the loss could also be chalked up to it being the first game of a five game road trip for the Jazz.
But then came another surprising loss to the New Jersey Nets, and though the Jazz poured it on in the second and fourth quarters, a dismal first and third kept them out of the game.
The woes continued with a blowout loss 110-86 against the Boston Celtics. Williams, limited by foul trouble, played a mere 23 minutes, going 1-4 from the field and 0-3 on three-pointers.
Another loss to the Sixers featured a revitalized Williams, as well as strong contributions from Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, but the rest of the team barely pitched in throughout the course of the 96-85 loss.
Now, obviously some fatigue is understandable at this point in the season, and every team faces the January doldrums, but it's the nature of these losses that make them so bizarre.
The Jazz are a strong road team and dropping four straight, including three to sub-.500 teams is not a good way to enter the second half of the year. Their recent play has been riddled with sloppy defense and a noticeable lack of offensive energy with usually strong players like Andrei Kirilenko, CJ Miles and Williams missing easy shots. Poor rotation, excessive turnovers and limited production from their 4 and 5 positions also contributed to the team's recent lackluster performances.
One thing's for certain, the Jazz, who have sank to sixth in the Western Conference and only a game ahead of seventh place Denver, need to figure out what isn't clicking about their team. Hopefully veteran coach Jerry Sloan can find a remedy for his team's issues, because the Jazz are off-beat and in a bit of a nosedive.
What's your opinion? Are the Jazz in serious trouble? Or am I overreacting and this is merely a rough patch before the team snaps back to normal?
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