It is a maxim of this site that “great teams win big and lose close.” It is also a maxim in sports more generally that teams that handle their business against good teams in the regular season are the teams who are the actual favorites to win the title come playoff time.
But sometimes, you get a stretch of games where one team so completely beats the ever-loving snot out of other teams everyone thinks are contenders that you start to think to yourself “wait, are we witnessing historical greatness here?”
The Utah Jazz’s current six-game winning streak is shading into that kind of territory.
Even though two of those six wins were by a single possession, that wasn’t enough to drag down a stratospheric jump in Net Rating. Beating Memphis and Toronto by three points each may not sound like much, but beating Chicago by 25, Memphis again by 16, Cleveland by 39, and the piece de resistance, whupping Brooklyn by 30—yeah, the Nets had exactly none of their best players out there, but beating the crap out of someone is still beating the crap out of someone—means Utah’s average margin of victory during this six-game fiesta has been 19.33, enough to raise their overall Net Rating for the season by almost two full points, all the way to plus-9.5.
The offensive explosions left them third in Offensive Rating league-wide, and the defensive shutdowns pushed them to third in Defensive Rating as well.
We’ve seen this from Utah before. Their Net Rating first went on crazy pills during a stretch when a lackluster 4-4 start turned into a 24-5 record—the Jazz won 20 out of 21 games, and only two of those wins were by single digits. They beat the Pacers by eight and the Nuggets by four. Everyone else, they absolutely clobbered.
Donovan Mitchell, about whom I said he had a “2-point problem” on this very site, has raised his eFG% from .501 to .524 and his 2-point percentage from 44.4 to 46.8, raising his 3-point percentage to 39.9 just as an added bit of good measure in just under two weeks. During the winning streak, he’s shot 55 percent from the field and 52.2 percent from long range, good for an eFG% of .658. His 2-point percentage in the last six games? A whopping 56.9 percent.
Rudy Gobert, meanwhile, has shot 69.1 percent from the field, averaged 12.8 rebounds a game, and turned the ball over just three times during the streak.
Mike Conley finally got the monkey off his back, shedding the dubious distinction of being one of the best players never to make an All-Star team when he finally got the nod this year.
The Jazz are still first in 3PAR and second in 3-point percentage, firing with the accuracy of a sniper rifle and the volume of fire of a machine gun from long range.
And their opponents’ eFG% during the six-game stretch? The Nets and Cavs couldn’t even crack .400, and their six opponents combined posted an eFG% of just .467.
That was enough to drop Utah’s overall opponents’ eFG% all the way down to .506 on the season, which means that even as the Knicks lowered their enemy eFG% from .514, which had been leading the league, down to .513 (and won three out of four to get back above even at 24-23), they’re seven ticks behind Utah on the board.
The Jazz have crossed over from “good but you wonder how they’ll do in the playoffs” to “if they can make a title run and lose no more than two playoff games, we’re going to have to talk about their position among the all-time greatest teams in a single season.”
The stats don’t lie. The Jazz’s Net Rating is back on crazy pills, and the rest of the league needs to take note.