The Lakers’ march to a second consecutive NBA championship has been rudely interrupted by – of all teams – the Utah Jazz.
Only a few months ago the Jazz has been basically left for dead. They had departed the Orlando bubble red-faced after somehow managing to spit up a 3-1 series lead against Denver, and as they headed to the off-season everyone in the NBA thought that it might be time to make some major changes on a team that always seemed good but not good enough.
Instead, the Jazz did nothing. They got a boost when Bojan Bogdanovic came back healthy after missing the playoffs because of an operation on his right wrist. Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell somehow repaired whatever personal damage was caused by Gobert’s Covid issue, and the Jazz were off to the races.
Monday night’s victory over the 76ers was the 8th in a row for the Jazz, who own the NBA’s best records both straight up (23-5) and ATS (21-7) heading into two very interesting games against the Clippers in Los Angeles, on Wednesday and Friday. If the Jazz can take care of business in LA, it sets up another key game against Los Angeles – at home against the Lakers next week. It’s very possible that Utah could enter the month of March only 11 wins short of beating the total number of wins (41.5) oddsmakers had pegged them for for the entire season.
Utah opened the season at +4000 to win it all, with 11 teams getting better odds from the books. Those numbers have steadily melted to +1400, with the Jazz now looking up at only the Lakers (+250), Nets (+375), Clippers (+525) and Bucks (+650).
Whether the Jazz can keep up anything close to their torrid pace in the strong Western Conference is anyone’s guess. At this writing, they have piggybacked those eight wins in a row with seven straight covers. They are winning more than 82 percent of their games, which would put them on a pace to go 67-15 over a normal 82-game NBA season – better than anyone since the Warriors went off in 2015-16 and set the NBA record with 73 wins.
Winning cures all ills, and with the Jazz on a historic roll that brings back memories of the Karl Malone-John Stockton teams, Mitchell and Gobert are on the same page, and talk about trading either one now is met with hearty laughter. Quin Snyder is starting to hear Coach of the Year talk, and the front office is accepting congratulations for the 2019 Christmas Week steal of Jordan Clarkson from the Cavaliers – a move that solidified the bench. Clarkson torched the 76ers for 40 on Monday night and figures to at minimum be in the 6th Man of the Year conversation.
So everything is pointing upward for the Jazz. Bettors who have been on Utah this season no doubt are flush, and only time will tell when – or even if – this gravy train will end.