March 28, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Utah Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin reacts on the side line during the fourth quarter against the Boston Celtics at TD Banknorth Garden. The Celtics won 94-82. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE
Slowly but surely, the Utah Jazz have been finding their rhythm under the guidance of second-year head coach Tyrone Corbin.
BOSTON -- Being a good musical conductor requires a wealth of knowledge and takes years of practice, and the same is true for being a good head coach. Sure, anyone could be put in charge of conducting a symphony, or a basketball team, but by no means does that ensure success.
The simple fact is, if you aren't properly prepared, you're likely going to fall flat on your face.
Utah (27-24) has been one of the NBA's hottest teams, with the team winning six in a row before falling in a quadruple overtime game on Sunday. Utah had won eight of its last 10 games heading into Wednesday's game against the Celtics. As of Friday morning, the Jazz are No. 7 in the Western Conference.
After hitting a rough patch in February in which the Jazz went 4-11, the team is starting to find its rhythm.
"Not in all cylinders, but we're better," Corbin said before Wednesday's 94-82 loss in Boston. "We're better than what we were and we'll continue to work to get better. I think we have another gear, on both ends of the floor for that matter. As we continue to grow, we'll see different combinations and different individuals matching up with different guys and understand the competition a little bit more. We'll continue to grow."
The growing pains have been evident, February in particular, but if Utah's level of play in March is any indication, the Jazz are well on their way to being competitive in a well-balanced conference. The Jazz have gone 11-6 in the month so far, highlighted by wins over the Heat, Lakers and Thunder.
What has led to the resurgence of the Jazz? Ask Devin Harris, and he'll give you one simple answer.
"Defense," said Harris, when posed the question.
Utah isn't exactly known as a defensive stalwart, allowing an average of 98.8 points (22nd in the league). That number has actually gotten worse in March, as Utah is allowing 101.5 points on average (that number is inflated by the Jazz' 139-133 quadruple overtime loss to the Hawks. Take that game away, and they are allowing 99.1 points). Nevertheless, the Jazz have done enough to get the stops they need to win.
"Absolutely, absolutely," Corbin said when asked if he agreed with Harris. "One of the things we talked about right from the beginning of the season -- we always said we were able to score points, we've got to find ways to stop people and we've got to stop them in bunches. Lately we've been getting a lot better and we'll continue to work on it to get better."
"It's a huge advantage," Corbin said. "These guys had actually been together all of last season, and coming into this year they understood more what they can expect from each other. They're two great professionals, they're learning more every game about how to read each other, and as a result I think our young guys, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors, are learning how to read and cut off when they're playing with one of those two guys, or when those two guys are playing together. They've been two great pros for us."
"Most teams wish they had one guy, we have two," Harris said about Jefferson and Millsap. "They pay a lot of attention to those guys, they open up [shots] for our perimeter players. We're lucky to have both."
Harris is no slouch himself, as he is the team's fourth-leading scorer (10.2 PPG) and averages a team-best 4.9 assists. The team isn't exactly where Harris had hoped it would be, but he's willing to be content with what they are.
"We've been up and down," Harris said. "Obviously looking at where we started the season and where we are now, obviously it's a little bit disappointing. But we're happy to be where we are right now."
As for finding their rhythm, Harris was on the same page as Corbin. They're better, but not there yet.
"We're not there yet," Harris said. "Obviously we're playing a lot better, obviously we're giving ourselves a chance to win a lot of these games, but until we start winning on the road consistently, then we're not where we want."
The Jazz' season winds down with a schedule full of mixed talent, featuring games against powerhouses like the Clippers, Spurs (twice), Mavericks, Grizzlies and Magic, along with ones against basement dwellers such as the Kings, Warriors and Hornets. Harris believes the Jazz can be competitive in the playoffs, but they have to get there first.
If and when they do, almost anything can happen, and they'll be eager to prove just as much.