There was once an American Thoroughbred race horse who loved to run. Yet he was young, unproven, and not built for long distances. He showed flashes of excellence. He learned to be dominant. Yet, Secretariat had a thing for making his owner sweat because he always seemed to start out at the back of the pack. Then the colt would come on strong.
History has a tendency to repeat itself. However, there is no Triple Crown at stake. The Utah Jazz has raced out of the starting gates in pursuit of their own crown in the Western Conference. Hopefully Coach Jerry Sloan can hang on for the ride without having a heart attack.
After finishing off the Atlanta Hawks 90-86 at the Philips Arena Friday night, the Jazz have now won four straight contests after having faced double-digit deficits. It’s not a habit they want to get into however, and they know in order to achieve all their goals, they’ll need to stay with their opponents at the beginning of games.
Unlike the three previous double-digit deficit turnaround wins, this game the Jazz hung tough with the Atlanta Hawks from the start, trailing 45-42 at halftime.
“We just hung in there when we got down a little bit,” Deron Williams said. “Just like the last games, we hung in and didn’t hang our heads.”
After a 5-0 run by the Hawks to start the fourth quarter, the Jazz took control of the game, going on a 15-4 run of their own to tie the game up at 78. That’s when the Jazz clamped down defensively and stole a third straight win on the road.
“We take a lot of pride because we’re doing it the right way. We’re doing it defensively,” Williams said.
Unlike the last few years, when defense has always been spoken of but never witnessed, this Jazz team looks like they have a group of guys that genuinely cares about giving the effort on the defensive end. The additions of Watson, Bell, and Jefferson bring strong improvements on that front, which bodes well for a Utah team struggling to get over the hump and battle with the elite in the West come playoff time.
If the Jazz can learn to start of strong like Secretariat finally did in the 1973 Belmont Stakes, they very well could run away with things in the Northwest Division and be on a collision course with the Los Angeles Lakers.