How to tell the difference between real wins and fake wins

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic spins on Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024.

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There are some wins for NBA teams that are real, and some that are fake.

Of course, they all count the same in the official standings. But, when it comes to games that can tell you something about a team, that can show you what they’re truly capable of, not all wins are equal.

What makes a win real or fake can vary depending on the team. For the Utah Jazz, let’s take a look at their win over the Philadelphia 76ers on their most recent road trip.

The Jazz were in Philly on the second night of a back-to-back against the second-best Eastern Conference team and they won. At face value, that might seem like a good win, but it was fake because it wasn’t even against the real Sixers. With reigning MVP Joel Embiid sidelined, along with two other Philadelphia starters (Tobias Harris and De’Anthony Melton), the Jazz really only beat Tyrese Maxey and Co.

On the other hand, the two Jazz wins that followed that game were very real.


The Jazz next visited Milwaukee, where they beat the Bucks. You might be thinking that since the Bucks didn’t have Damian Lillard in the lineup that it might lean toward a fake win. Au contraire. The Bucks still have one of the best players in the NBA in Giannis Antetokounmpo and his championship-tested right-hand man Khris Middleton.

The Bucks, even without Lillard, are not an easy out. Real win.

Then the Jazz returned home to face the fully healthy Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray-led reigning champion Denver Nuggets in the Delta Center, and the Jazz seemingly made easy work of beating them.

That is a very, very good, well-coached, highly skilled basketball team, and the Jazz outplayed them.

So what do these two, very real wins say about the Jazz? It punctuates that the Jazz are finding some things that really work. They are learning how to play together in a way that can actually work against the best teams in the league. It means that the Jazz might not be who we thought they were through the first 20 games of the season. In fact, they might be a lot better.

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Quote of the week

“Trying to figure out rotations, lineups, plays, chemistry, how to play off of each other — that takes time. You can’t just throw guys into the pot and make soup. You’ve got to add different stuff and change the recipe a little bit until it tastes right.” — Kelly Olynyk

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Extra points

  • Will Hardy’s lineup and rotation experimentation is paying off for the Jazz (Deseret News)

  • Bryon Russell and Greg Ostertag, back in Utah, reminisce about Finals trips (Deseret News)

  • How Jazz fans can catch up with Carlos Boozer this month (Deseret News)

  • Gordon Hayward remembers Jerry Sloan’s final game (

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Up next: 2023-24 regular season

  • Jan. 12 | 7:30 p.m. | Utah Jazz vs. Toronto Raptors | KJZZ

  • Jan. 13 | 7:30 p.m. | Utah Jazz vs. Los Angeles Lakers | KJZZ

  • Jan. 15 | 7 p.m. | Utah Jazz vs. Indiana Pacers | KJZZ

  • Jan. 17 | 7 p.m. | Utah Jazz vs. Golden State Warriors | KJZZ

  • Jan. 18 | 7 p.m. | Utah Jazz vs. Oklahoma City Thunder | KJZZ

All times MST.