Jazz Expectations Met: Homecourt Advantage Is Real

By Rece Allen


SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz continue to surprise NBA fans as they surpass the expectations they were given at the beginning of the season with the help of their young core. Three of the young players showed off their skills in the Skills Challenge, winning it Saturday in front of their fans in Salt Lake City.


The Utah Jazz was expected to be at the bottom of the Western Conference after their two-star players, Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, were traded to Cleveland and Minnesota. They were able to get some talented players and 10 additional draft picks to build around.


From the trade, the biggest win for the Jazz was the emergence of forward Lauri Markkanen as an All-Star player. His boost in production to 25 points and nine rebounds per game has been a big reason why the Jazz are more successful than people’s preseason expectations. The team’s young core attests to their bright future.


“The future of the team is going to be great,” Utah guard Collin Sexton said. “I know we got to continue to finish strong in the season and try to make the playoffs. That’s definitely one of our goals, but just continue to build. Each and every day it’s not going to be easy and we’re going to be better.”


In the Skills Challenge, the Jazz had a team of three players (Jordan Clarkson, Walker Kessler, and Collin Sexton) who competed against the Rookies and the Antetokounmpo brothers. The three rounds were Team Relay, Team Passing, and Team Shooting. The first two rounds were worth 100 points and the final round was worth 200.


Last year in Cleveland, was the first time the Skills Challenge had a team of three players. The Cavaliers had Team Cavs and won in front of their home crowd. Salt Lake City was up next and it was time for Team Jazz to keep the homecourt advantage alive.


Sexton said their biggest competition was going to be “himself” and as long as he minimized his own errors he believed the team would win.


Despite a slow start in the first round for Team Jazz, they won the next two rounds to become Skills Challenge champions. Competing in All-Star Weekend and winning in front of their fans in Salt Lake City was special.


“It’s huge for us, especially for the city,” Sexton said. “Honestly, it just shows the fans we appreciate them as well and tonight we brought the victory home to them.” 


The home-court advantage played a part in winning the Skills Challenge and looking forward to the next All-Star Weekend in Indianapolis. Team Pacers could be favored to win if the format stays the same.