After a brutal losing streak where Utah had recently lost seven of eight, it's safe to say that the Jazz have turned the corner.
They've since responded to win four of five, culminating in Wednesday's wire-to-wire 126-103 victory over the shorthanded LA Clippers. Six players scored in double figures as Utah has now climbed back to .500 on the season.
"The Clippers were undermanned tonight, but I don't think that takes away anything from what our team did in terms of them playing together and executing on both ends of the floor," head coach Will Hardy said. "There's always going to be situations and games where teams are missing people, and we've been in that situation ourselves at times, and you still have to play the game."
Here are five things to know following the win:
1.) The Finnisher Finds His Rhythm In Return
It's nice to have Lauri Markkanen back.
After missing the past two games while dealing with a left hip contusion, The Finnisher picked up precisely where he left off. He finished with 34 points — 24 in the first half — and 12 rebounds, shooting 11-of-20 from the floor and 6-for-8 from deep.
While it's expected to show a little rust after missing some time, Markkanen came out firing from the start with seven straight points to begin the game. Those points are precisely why he's made a giant leap forward as they came at all three levels — a bucket at the rim off a drive, a midrange pull-up, and a deep three.
"I thought it was another game where Lauri seemed to kind of do a little bit of everything," Hardy said. "He made threes, got to the basket with force early in the game. He's just continuing to grow before our eyes every night in terms of understanding there's a lot of different ways to be effective on the offensive end in this league, especially when you have his combination of size, skill, and athleticism."
He was so good on the night that even Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue couldn't help but heap praise on the future All-Star.
"He realized he's the best player (on the Jazz)," he said.
2.) Jazz Come Out Hot
Facing a Clippers team without Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, and on the second game of a back-to-back, Utah wanted to make sure they came out focused and firing.
Behind seven straight points from Markkanen to start the game, the Jazz jumped out to a 9-0 lead less than two minutes in. They would eventually lead by 10 points after the first quarter, 12 at the half, and 16 heading into the fourth. Most impressively, once they got the double-digit lead in the second quarter, they never saw it drop below nine points.
After 12 of their past 13 games had come down to the game's final minutes, Utah admitted postgame that it was nice to cruise to a victory in the fourth.
"For us to win it the way we did and to have our guys sitting in the last couple of minutes of the game was good for us to see that happen," Mike Conley said postgame. "We haven't really had that feeling all year, so yeah, it was a really good win."
3.) Conley Finally Breaks Out
After a rough start to the season when it came to shooting the ball, Conley has officially broken out of his slump.
Although he's been showing signs the past two weeks of coming out of it, he put it all together Wednesday with his best shooting performance of the season. He finished with 17 points, nine assists, and four rebounds, knocking down 5-of-6 from beyond the arc.
"Mike got into a good rhythm," Hardy said. "We have a lot of guys we don't have to urge to shoot the ball, but Mike, more than anyone, is someone I've had to encourage to shoot more. He's so unselfish and thinks pass first, but tonight he picked his opportunities to shoot the ball, and he knocked them down."
4.) Kessler Continues To Shine As A Starter
Walker Kessler was right back at it two days after making a little league history.
Ever since being inserted into the starting lineup following the ankle injury to Kelly Olynyk, the rookie has shined in nearly every facet of the game — and Wednesday was more of the same.
Being a force on both ends of the court, Kessler finished with his third straight double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. He also added three assists and two blocks, further showing his growth as a complete player.
After starting the last five games, Kessler is averaging 13.4 points (68.2% shooting), 12.8 rebounds, 2.8 blocks, and 1.8 assists in 29.7 minutes per game.
5.) Jazz Are Out Of The Play-In
Simply put, the Western Conference is absolutely loaded.
While the Nuggets and Grizzlies have run away with the West in their battle for the top seed, the difference between the 3-seed (Sacramento) and 13-seed (Los Angeles Lakers) is just six games.
There's so much parody in the West that any winning streak could have you jump up multiple spots — with the Jazz as proof.
When they had lost seven of eight, Utah had slipped all the way down to 11th in the standings, entirely out of the postseason. But now, after winning their fourth in five games, the Jazz have moved past the Play-In Tournament and sit in 6th place.
With games against the Kevin Durant-less Nets and Charlotte (where LaMelo Ball left Wednesday's game with a sprained ankle), Utah can maybe continue its journey up the standings.