Whatever happened with the Utah Jazz between the first of February—in which it lost a slew of games—and now is remarkable. Not only did the Jazz—who lost back-to-back games to the Celtics and Clippers in embarrassing fashion—proverbially do what rhymes with spit to their beds, they also set a bad precedent for a team gunning for a top seed in the playoffs.
Considering the Jazz still haven't sewn up a playoff spot—largely because they're still over a month from completing this season—and there is talk that Gordon Hayward, their only All-Star, may not return, well, there must be a reason for their resurgence. Here are three reasons why Jazz Nation can rest a little easier now that the Jazz are winning again.
Need we say anything else? When Hill is in the lineup for Utah, the Jazz play better. It's a scientific fact—and if you don't believe then read this. Now, never mind that Portland is a bad defensive team—as Jazz PBP man David Locke points out. Hill was the difference maker, getting his arms into the lane—ditto, Dante Exum—against the Blazers in a 111-88 romp. Then he exploded for 21 points and dished out six assists in another impressive 102-92 win at Washington. Before that he scored 19 in yet another big W over Milwaukee. Need anyone say anything more about his presence?
Speaking of injured guards with unlimited potential, say no more because Exum is YOUR guy. The lanky Australian youngster may have oodles of potential what with his ridiculous 6-foot-6-inch frame for a point guard. But seriously, the dude hasn't played many games this healthy. That's why everyone in Jazz Nation should be paying extra close attention right now, because what Exum's doing is unheard of in his career. So what if he's coming in off the bench for Hill; he's averaging about 12 points and four assists while doing it in these three games following the All-Star Break.
Sorry, Gordon Hayward. With all due respect to the All-Star who is probably playing his final season in Utah—because his old college coach is in Boston, duh—Gobert is the real reason, well, that and defense, that the Jazz are tearing things up right now. Sure, Hayward is averaging just north of 25 points and nearly a double-double if you count all the rebounds he's collecting. But Gobert is beginning to flirt with that magical, Dennis Rodman-like stat line of 20 points and 20 rebounds with every game he plays through February. In the last two games alone the Frenchman has had 15 and 16 and, yes, 15 and 20—as in 15 points and 20 rebounds—giving you hope he'll reach Worm-like status in no time.