Ron Turenne

How we got here—highlights and trends from the first 41 games of the 2018-19 season

by Matt Payne

The Utah Jazz have officially reached the midway point of the 2018-19 regular season, and even though they have seen their fair share of both ups and downs, but here are eight meaningful performances, stats and trends to keep in mind as the Jazz make a second-half push for the playoffs. We start, as any story about the Jazz should, with ...

1. Rudy Gobert, who’s averaging 14.8 points (which would be a new career high) and 12.3 rebounds per game this season and ranks No. 2 in the NBA with 32 double-doubles.

The Stifle Tower also leads the NBA in field-goal percentage (65.8 percent) and ranks fifth in blocks per game (2.0). The other member of Utah’s dynamic duo is ...

2. Second-year guard Donovan Mitchell, who’s averaging a team-high 20.4 points per game and has scored 20+ points 21 times this season. Not surprisingly, Utah’s fortunes appear to correlate directly with Mitchell’s play—the Jazz are 12-2 when he shoots at least 44 percent from the field, 9-3 when he dishes out at least five assists, and 7-0 when he does both.

 

Mitchell’s play has been uneven, but it’s hard to blame him—or the rest of the team—when they’ve ...

3. Played 25 road games, the most of any NBA team. The Knicks, who have a record of 10-30, have played 24 road games, while no other team has played more than 22. The Bucks, who have the best record in the league, have only played 16 road games. The Jazz are 12-13 on the road, and it was fitting that they concluded the first half of their schedule with a four-game road trip. Beginning with tonight’s game against the Orlando Magic, though, the Jazz will play 12 of their next 15 games at home, which is good because they’re dealing with some …

4. Injury issues. After a relatively healthy start to the season, the Jazz have been pummelled by a wave of injuries since the calendar flipped to 2019 just over a week ago. Starting point guard Ricky Rubio (hamstring), backup point guard Danté Exum (ankle) and backup forward Thabo Sefolosha (hamstring) have all gone down with injuries and will be re-evaluated in upcoming weeks. Playing without three important rotation guys is never ideal, but the upcoming schedule is. The Jazz have ... 

5. Faced the toughest schedule of any team in the NBA. The rating scale runs from a high of 1.8 (Utah) to a low of -1.5 (Charlotte), with Utah’s schedule being twice as difficult as the second-place team (New York at 0.9). The Jazz have yet to face three of the league’s five worst teams (Phoenix, Chicago and Atlanta), and in the past week they beat the other two teams in the NBA’s bottom five—New York and Cleveland—by an average of 29 points. 

Things are looking up, because despite the brutal schedule and seemingly never-ending road trips, the Jazz ...

6. Still have a record of 20-21, which puts them in a three-way tie (with the Kings and Timberwolves) for 9th place in the Western Conference standings. That same record would be good enough for sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings. The Jazz are only two games behind the Los Angeles Lakers for the final playoff spot, with a matchup against those same Lakers (potentially without LeBron James due to his groin injury) on Friday night. While the Jazz will be without Rubio, Exum and Sefolosha, they still have ... 

7. Kyle Korver, who was traded back to Utah from Cleveland in return for Alec Burks on November 29.

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The 37-year-old veteran had spent parts of three seasons with the Jazz earlier in his career (2007–10) and made an immediate impact upon his return to Salt Lake City. Korver has averaged 8.9 points and 1.9 threes in 19 games with the Jazz, and he has partnered with fellow sharpshooter Joe Ingles to effectively space the floor for Mitchell, Gobert, Rubio and Derrick Favors to operate in the lane. The Jazz are 8-1 when Korver makes at least two 3-pointers. 

Burks, meanwhile, is taking advantage of his opportunity in Cleveland. He’s averaging 11.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists in nearly 30 minutes per game with the Cavs—more than double the court time he was getting with the Jazz.

The NBA trade deadline is on February 7, which is the next significant date to keep an eye on as the team’s level of on-court success and injury situation will likely determine how active the Jazz are leading up to that date. With 41 games left to play, here’s a snapshot of … 

8. Where the Jazz currently rank heading into the final half of the regular season:

No. 2 in defensive rebound percentage (.800)

No. 4 in opponent 3-pointers allowed per game (9.9)

No. 4 in free throws attempted per game (25.3)

No. 6 in steals per game (8.8)

No. 7 in points allowed per game (105.9)

No. 10 in point differential (+2.0)

No. 12 in 3-pointers per game (11.1)

No. 12 in assists per game (24.8)

No. 12 in field-goal percentage (46.3)

No. 12 in points per shot (1.27) 

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