It was a great road trip. Was it one of the best?
Over the past couple days, a number of people have suggested that with Saturday’s night victory over the Bobcats, the Jazz put a close on the best road trip in franchise history.
Obviously, any argument about having accomplished something that ranks among the ‘best in history’ is subjective and hard to define, but I did feel it was appropriate to take a moment and consider what this team has accomplished, at least within the context of the Jazz franchise.
I have gathered data on seven of the most notable road trips in Jazz history (Utah and New Orleans). Primarily, I focused on road trips where the Jazz went undefeated, but I included two other one-loss road trips that stood out.
I’ve also provided the means for developing a crude degree of difficulty scale. For starters, I figured out how many games were held the night after a previous game (i.e. back-to-back games) and – as a means to determine the quality of opponent – I’ve noted how many opponents went on to the playoffs that season. Naturally, we don’t know which teams among the Heat, Magic, Hawks and Bobcats will make the playoffs this year, but as they all made the playoffs last year, odds are good they will return (or at least the odds are good enough for me).
I will concede that there are many more variables that one could introduce into a debate like this – injuries, nationally televised games vs. regionally TV games, various career-best performances (i.e. Millsap vs Miami) – but I think you’ll acknowledge this is a fair place to start.
|2010-11||Heat, Magic, Hawks, Bobcats||4-0||2||4?|
|2009-10||Rockets, Hornets, Warriors, Fail Blazers||4-0||1||1|
|1998-99||Lakers, Mavs, Suns, Warriors||4-0||1||2|
|1997-98||Rockets, Raptors, Celtics, Nets, Bucks||5-0||2||2|
|1996-97||Wolves, Hawks (L), Nets, Pacers, Bullets, Hornets, Celtics||6-1||2||4|
|1994-95||Wolves, Bullets, Bulls, Bucks, 76ers, Hawks||6-0||2||2|
|1975-76*||Bulls, Kings, Pistons, 76ers (L), Bucks, Rockets||5-1||1||3|
* New Orleans Jazz
(Records from Basketball-Reference.com. Hover over each team name to see that game’s score.)
Now, we already know that this road trip stands alone when you look at how the Jazz won these games. Accordingly to Elias, the 2010-11 Jazz are the first team in the shot-clock era to win three consecutive games where they trailed by at least 10 points at the half. That particular ‘run’ came to an end in Atlanta, because even though they did trail the Hawks by 10 in the second half of Friday’s game, they were only trailing by 3 at the half. Still, it was the same old story in Charlotte, as the Jazz faced a 16 point deficit at halftime of Saturday’s game against the Bobcats.
(By the way, when the Jazz huddled at halftime over these four games, they were facing average deficit of 11.25, and in each game they came back to win by an average of 4.25. If you don’t think that coaching and mentally toughness can win out over extraordinary athletic ability, you need to find these games and watch them again.)
Naturally, there are other ways to look at the merits of a successful road trip. If you feel like the strength of a road trip should be measured in the visitor’s dominance of the home team, this road trip wasn’t for you. The Jazz only won 8 of 17 periods played, or 47%. This actually ranks at the bottom of the six other road trips described here, and the only one below 50%. On average, the other six teams won 58.1% of the periods they played during their respective runs, with the 1997-98 Jazz winning 65%. (Note: I couldn’t find quarter-by-quarter breakdowns of the 75-76 Jazz, so I just gave them a 50% average.)
One final thing to add here. As someone who watched each of these games, I feel very strongly that this trip was successfully as a result of the collective effort provided by each player on the team. There was no single player who dominated through the road trip.
That said, the one thing I’ll remember most about this road trip was watching Paul Millsap, a guy who had rarely been given his due, step up out of Boozers shadow in Miami and knock down 11 points in the final 28 seconds to send the Jazz into overtime in a game they were completely not expected to win.
This, for me, is up there with Reggie’s 8 points in 9 seconds as ‘one of those things you can’t still believe actually happened.’
I feel like these 28 seconds have to factor into the equation.
Whether this road trip goes down in Jazz franchise as the greatest road trip of the franchise, or whether its premature to say such things until we see how it all plays out, it is undeniable that the Jazz had an incredible week, one that ranks among their best.
UPDATE: I came across this incredible look at the changing likelihood of the Jazz winning each of these games. Absolutely worth a look (Basketball-Reference.com)