Sunday, April 12, 2009

Finishing weak

Good teams finish strong. By this metric alone the Jazz may not appear to have been a good team since John Stockton and Jeff Hornacek were running around in their short shorts. Last night the Utah Jazz lost at home (didn’t I just write about being a good home team?) to the Golden State Warriors – one of the worst franchises in league history, even though they had some good times back a few decades ago (like before I was born). The Jazz’ last ten games have been absolutely horrible:

  1. @ Phoenix (4 pt loss),
  2. vs. Phoenix (5 pt win),
  3. vs. New York (8 pt win),
  4. @ Portland (21 pt loss),
  5. @ Denver (10 pt loss),
  6. vs. Minnesota (1 pt loss),
  7. @ New Orleans (14 pt win),
  8. @ Dallas (29 pt loss),
  9. @ San Antonio (6 pt loss),
  10. vs. Golden State (10 pt loss)

That’s 3 wins and 7 losses. Over that time the Jazz are a net –54 in points. That averages out to losing 10 straight games by more than 5 points each. That’s finishing pretty weak. (As opposed to “finishing strong”) The Jazz have two games remaining, a final back-to-back set at home against the Clippers, to play the Lakers the next day in LA. So that’s going to be a 1-1 split. So the Jazz will finish the season with a 3-7 record in their last 10 games. (The split vs. the LA teams will just bump off the split with Phoenix) This has to be a cause of concern, right?

Utah is probably going to end up playing the Lakers in the 1st round of the playoffs, and we’re not that great in their building. It would be one thing if the Jazz were fighting hard and on a hot streak going into the playoffs – but that’s obviously not the case at all. Didn't the Jazz flounder down the stretch last season too, and the year before that? In fact, the last time in recent history the Jazz actually finished the season out strong (i.e. kicked butt in the month of April) was that season where they didn’t make the playoffs, but ended up being 1 game out, or something close like that. (Deron’s Rookie year, 2005-2006, where the Jazz won 70.00% of their games in April)

Let’s take a look at how the Jazz have finished over the last decade and try to see if there are any significant trends, shall we? This time span shows the decline from the Stockton-to-Malone years, the AK is the man  years, the Boozer/Okur free agent bonanza era, and the current Deron Williams era. I’ve decided to look at the months of February, March, April and when possible, May. There are some pretty interesting facts when you look at it all.

First, the average wins per season for the Jazz have been 46.1 wins. The highest total was 55 wins back in 1999-2000, and the lowest was the year before we got Deron, 26, in 2004-2005. Secondly, the Jazz have won 55.80% of the games from February to May over this decade. (For those keeping score at home, that’s going 231 for 414) Utah has only bested that average winning percentage 5 times: 1999-2000 (64%), 2000-2001 (60.47%), 2006-2007 (55.82%), 2007-2008 (66.67%) and yes, this current season 2008-2009 (currently at 65.63%).


The Jazz have played 117 games in this month over the last 10 seasons, and have won 74 times. That is an astounding 63.25% of the time! (In the Deron Williams era this month sees the Jazz winning 73.33% of the time!!!! Holy All-Star Snub, Batman!) This is by far the best month for the Jazz over the last decade. This is the shortest month, and while I did not go over every roster for every season, I feel like the Jazz are motivated to play in this month, and not only consistently beat the teams they are supposed to, but frequently face the best teams and beat them too during this month. Most Jazz wins over the Lakers over this span appear to occur during this month, as an example. This season has been the best February in 10 years with the Jazz running to a 10-1 record, accruing a winning percentage of 90.91%.


March is the second best month over these 10 years for the Jazz. Utah has won 92 of 155 games in this month, a winning percentage of 59.35% (61.29% in the D-Will Era). While it’s not as amazing as February, it does include plenty of quality wins against Western Conference foes – this season was no different either. Our current Jazz team still managed to win 66.67% of their games in March, the second best record for the current Deron Williams Era. When you take into account the combined force of the Jazz in February and March, you have a team that wins 61.03% of the time in 272 tries. This becomes 66.36% in Deron’s career – again, may be related to his usual destruction on the court as a response to his annual All-Star snub. (Seriously, how is a guy who is 2nd Team All-NBA and has a Gold Medal not an All-Star? I guess it’s because Brandon Roy’s team usually wins more games by the time the coaches have their votes in)


Compared to the previous two months, April isn’t so hot. This is, in fact, a month where the Jazz (again, over this 10 year period) lose more games than they win. Utah wins only 46.49% of the time, 52.63% of Deron Williams’ time. Both numbers are significantly below the over-all averages from these 4 months of 61.03% for 10 years, and 66.36% for just Deron’s 4. By this time the Jazz players are tired, and are trying to finish off all their back-to-back sets. I’m making an excuse here for the Jazz – by this time, they are gassed. They play a league high number of back-to-backs every year – much less than the high profile teams that they end up facing on the road at this time of the year as well! (TV games, mind you, make more money when it’s ‘IN LA’, as opposed to ‘IN SLC’) So far the Jazz of this season appear to be following a greater trend of having great Feb and March, and having a poorer April. While this season isn’t complete yet, the Jazz are currently below .500 this month – which appears to be exactly the way it goes for Utah.


May has the smallest sample size of all the other months as the Jazz have only played 28 games over the 10 year span – those 28 games spread only over 4 seasons though. Furthermore, Utah is almost always going to end up with more losses than wins in may because Utah has never won an NBA title in these last 10 years (or ever). Utah, as they currently stand, has only won 42.86% of their games in this month (52.63% in Deron’s reign). They’ve only bested that average twice in ten seasons, the last two seasons: 2006-2007, 2007-2008. This season remains to be seen . . . time will only tell if the Jazz make it to playing in May.


I’d actually upload the charts / bar graphs, but I’m tired and I think I’ve spent too much time on the computer this weekend. Time for a break. It’s safe to say that Utah isn’t the best team in April, and that’s no reason to jump off any bridges. In the last 10 years the Jazz have only won 42.86% of the time in Aprilyet still managed to have over-all winning percentages of (on average) 55.80% from February onwards. Why? Because the Jazz kick butt in February and March. This season is no different. This season the Jazz have stunk it up something special in April, yet have won over 65% of their games since February. How? Because the Jazz managed to win 20 of 26 games (76.92%) in the two months before April. Utah is on track guys, and has only had a good number of wins in their last 10 games before the playoffs once in the last 10 seasons – and over that same time the Jazz have failed to get out of the first round only once.

Utah does finish the regular season weak. But that does not mean the end for the Jazz, as the playoffs are a whole different animal.

Right Tracy?