Saturday, April 11, 2009

Home (aka SLC) is where the wins are

Utah, we are told, sucks on the road. I’d like to debate this point – I really would, but at the end of the day what matters on the road are wins and losses. The Jazz have too few of the first thing, and too many of the second; namely, losses. Sure, the Jazz have entered the playoffs the past two seasons on the road (hence: bereft of home court) – and have won the series 100% of the time that’s happened . . . but those wins were against the Houston Rockets. It’s not like it was against a quality team, so it’s hard for me to hang my Jazz fan cap on that. Conversely, the Jazz also win 100% of the 2nd round series (in recent memory) when they do have home court. Sure, the sample size is small, but the Jazz are currently working on that – they’ve made the playoffs for 3 straight years, for those who are counting at home, that’s more than Chris Paul’s leadership was able to produce in the same amount of time. Smarmy remarks aside, the Jazz do win at home. Some point to the altitude, the refs, the schedule, and the fans energy as part of the reason why. I’m not going to get into why the Jazz are so good at home, or even why they win; rather, I’m just going to look at the wins the Jazz have accumulated in the Deron Williams Era of Jazz basketball: the 2006-2007, 2007-2008 and the current 2008-2009 seasons (including playoffs).

Jazz Home Records 0607 0708 0809 [Excel Chart]

N.B. The chart is incomplete as there are 2 regular season home games and at least 2 playoff home games yet to be played this season.

First of all, it’s hard not to notice how good the Jazz have been at home over the last few seasons, so good that it almost makes up for the consistently frustrating yearly road losses to lesser clubs (like the Wizards, Knicks, T’wolves, Bobcats, Kings, and so forth). Almost, but not completely though. Still, Utah is hard to beat at home, especially from February onwards. This makes Utah a specifically difficult out in the playoffs, teams pretty much have to win all of their home games to counter the fact that Utah is pretty much going to win all of theirs. Sure, Utah sucks on the road – I accept the charges on that collect call. But that’s only half the games. The other half shows complete dominance at home. Sure, Cleveland is having a superb home record *this* season. I’m proud of them. That’s nice, it’s fancy, the refs really respect their players. But I contend that no team wants to have to rely on getting a playoff win in Utah. (only two losses at home in May over his entire career – how many guys even lead their team to home games in May?)

Jazz Home Records Three Year Splits [Excel Chart] How good as Utah been at home over Deron’s career? Take a look for yourself. No co-incidence that the Jazz always metamorphoses into titans of epic strength and ability after the annual Deron Williams Post-All-Star Snub – three year percentages of winning 94.74% of February home games and 95.45% of March home games paints a very clear picture. Teams are not going to go into Utah and leave with a win during this Jazz warpath.

To put it politely, road teams visiting Utah during these months should expect to be treated with slightly less care than the care bears would, if they were sent into the jungles of South East Asia to hunt Rambo.

Utah is less than stellar in April, but that’s due to many reasons – like the customary “throw away an easy home win because it’s the 5th game in 7 nights game”, we last saw this as the Jazz lost to Minnesota at home a few games ago. That doesn’t make the Jazz any less dangerous, after all – in the playoffs they don’t play back-to-back games.


And more importantly, in Salt Lake City, no one can hear road teams scream.

(Because the loyal and passionate Jazz fans make too much noise – which somehow makes them unclassy, but that’s a topic of another day)