The Utah Jazz have dominated the Eastern Conference this season, and they’re currently in the midst of a three-game stretch against the three teams residing in their division basements.
At home, at least, the Washington Wizards haven’t been a pushover.
The Jazz begin a five-game road trip Monday afternoon in the nation’s capital, where they’ll be looking for a fourth straight win while preventing the Wizards from winning a fourth consecutive game at the Verizon Center.
Utah (27-13) tied three other Western Conference teams for the best record against the East last season, going 22-8.
Coach Jerry Sloan’s team has enjoyed interconference contests even more in 2010-11. The Jazz improved to 14-2 against the East on Friday night, trouncing woeful Cleveland 121-99 two nights after scoring a season-high 131 in a win versus the Knicks.
“It’s hard to play better unless you make every single shot,” said reserve guard C.J. Miles(notes), who’s averaged 20.0 points during Utah’s three-game winning streak. “We did a great job defending, picking up guys full court, getting in guys’ passing lanes, rebounding, and we got a run going.”
The five-game road trip includes a stop in Boston and concludes against the Lakers, but the first two contests - against Washington (11-27) and New Jersey - seem far less imposing.
But while the Wizards are 0-19 on the road, they’ve been surprisingly solid at home. Washington improved to 11-8 at the Verizon Center on Saturday as Nick Young(notes) scored a game-high 29 points in a 98-95 victory against Toronto.
Young has averaged 26.3 points and is shooting 50.3 percent in his last eight home games. He’s averaged 13.2 points on the road in that span.
“Right now he’s got an unbelievable comfort level as far as at home,” Washington coach Flip Saunders said. “We’ve got to get him to bring that killer instinct offensively on the road.”
Despite the Wizards’ solid home record, they’ve yet to beat a team above .500. They’re 0-6 against teams with winning records, though that includes one-point defeats against both Orlando and Miami.
But unlike Young, Wall hasn’t been great lately at home. Though he’s averaged 9.8 assists in his last five games at the Verizon Center, he’s also shot 31.7 percent and averaged 4.2 turnovers.
The Jazz have won six of seven in the series - outscoring the Wizards by an average of 14.7 points - and a major edge at the point has been the key to that success. Williams has averaged 11.3 of Utah’s astounding 29.0 assists per game during that stretch.
Finding the open man has typically been the best indicator of whether Sloan’s team is successful. The Jazz are 23-2 when they have 22 or more assists and 4-11 when they have 21 or fewer.
Utah’s been sharing the ball awfully well of late. It had 31 assists against the Knicks and 32 against Cleveland - including 10 in a 7:41 stretch of the second quarter.
“That’s big for us when we get back to running, getting it out and running, and having fun,” Williams said.