At 12-7, the Utah Jazz sit atop the Western Conference standings and are no longer a team that is viewed as some sort of anomaly. No, Will Hardy's squad is the real deal and can throw down with any opponent on any given NBA evening.
After jumping out to a hot start, winning 10 of their first 13 games, Utah went on a three-game losing streak. The doubts began to creep back in, only to see the Jazz storm back after two days of rest and knock off two Western Conference contenders in succession.
Although the Jazz failed to re-conjure that magic in Monday night's loss to the Kawhi Leonard-led Los Angeles Clippers, this team has risen back up the NBA power rankings. When last we checked in on Utah's power-ranking standing, the team was No. 1, but a couple of weeks later, after all the water that has passed under the bridge, where do the Jazz stand now?
Entering Week 6 of the regular season, the answer is No. 2, according to NBA.com's John Schuhmann.
Over the last 20 82-game seasons, 192 (91%) of the 211 teams that have won at least 12 of their first 20 games have gone on to reach the playoffs. The Jazz are now at 12 wins with two more to go until the 20-game mark, and one of those two games is against Detroit. The percentages go up with teams that have won 13 (147/154, 95%) or 14 (63/65, 97%) of their first 20, though we had an example of a 13-7 team (the Wizards) missing the playoffs last season. (The best record in NBA history through 20 games for a team that missed the playoffs belonged to the 2010-11 Jazz, who started 15-5.)
With Mike Conley suffering a knee injury on Saturday, the Jazz may have to deal with the first extended absence for one of their top eight guys. But they’re 12-6 against what has been a relatively tough schedule. Eleven of their 18 games have come against the other 15 teams that are currently over .500, and they’re 8-3 (best record within the group) in those games after the weekend wins over the Suns and Blazers. The Jazz are also one of four teams that have yet to play a rest-advantage game, and their first of 10 will be Wednesday against the Pistons, who are in Denver the night prior.
For what it's worth, the 13-3 Boston Celtics own the top spot in NBA.com's power rankings.
It will be fun to see how this season plays out. While expecting Utah to contend for an NBA championship might be a bridge too far, a playoff berth should be fait accompli for a club that continues to defy every preseason projecting the prognosticators laid out for the Jazz.