You may think of football when I say Thanksgiving, but you should also be aware that the NBA's Utah Jazz have been 8-2 overall and a stellar 8-1-1 against the spread since around Turkey Day. Can Utah keep up its winning and covering ways this week?
On Nov. 20, the Jazz, a team many had projected to make the playoffs this season and which had a wins total of 47.5 at SBR's best sportsbooks, lost in the second of a back-to-back at the Denver Nuggets to fall to 7-8 overall and 6-9 ATS on NBA picks. The Nuggets led by double digits most of the night and trailed only once, 2-0. It was probably rock bottom for Utah as it was also the team's fourth straight loss. Jazz starting power forward Derrick Favors missed a third straight game then with a bruised left knee, while point guard George Hill missed an eighth consecutive game with a sprained thumb.
Favors still hasn't returned and Hill has been in and out of the lineup since. So what has changed? You can start and finish with two guys: small forward Gordon Hayward and center Rudy Gobert, a Defensive Player of the Year candidate who has become quite the offensive force.
On Saturday in a blowout of the Sacramento Kings, Hayward had a game-high 26 points, his 10th straight 20-point game. It's the longest streak of 20-point games by a Jazz player since Hall of Famer Karl Malone (11 in a row in the 2001-02 season). Hayward is averaging a career-high 23.3 points per game this season. He was part of the reason why Utah got off to a slow start, missing the first six due to a broken finger suffered in training camp.
The Frenchman Gobert, awesomely nicknamed the "Stifle Tower," has been a monster over the past 10 games. He has eight double-doubles and is averaging 14.7 points on an amazing 73.4 percent shooting to go with 13.4 rebounds and 3.4 blocks in that stretch. His 15 double-doubles on the year are among the NBA leaders. Gobert is leading the league in field goal percentage (.671), ranks second in screen assists (5.9 per game) and is averaging career highs in points (11.8) and rebounds (11.6) as well as blocks (2.8 -- second in NBA).
Gobert is the first Utah player with at least 147 points and 134 rebounds over a 10-game span since Carlos Boozer in 2009-10. And if you are wondering, the NBA single-season record for field-goal percentage is 72.7 by Wilt Chamberlain in 1972-73, the last year of his Hall of Fame career. The Jazz smartly locked Gobert up on a four-year extension worth $102 million at the Oct. 31 deadline for 2013 first-round picks to be signed to extensions.
"He obviously got his nice new contract and hasn't taken a step back," teammate Joe Ingles recently said of Gobert to the Salt Lake Tribune. "He's still working really hard. And he's only  so he's got a long way to go. He can improve a hell of a lot more."
Through 25 games, the team is ranked No. 5 in defensive rating (101.3 points per 100 possessions) and seventh in offensive rating (107.8/100). If the Jazz are playing this well now, just imagine what they could be once Hill, Favors and guard Rodney Hood are all healthy. Hill, acquired this offseason in a trade from Indiana, has been great in his 11 games, averaging 20.0 points and 4.2 assists. He hasn't played since Nov. 29 due to a toe injury but has shed his walking boot. Utah is 5-0 when Hill and Hayward both play. Hood has missed the past two with a hamstring injury but is getting closer. Favors has gone from out indefinitely with a knee injury to day-to-day.
Also: don't bet against the Jazz when playing in back-to-back games. Utah has compiled a record of 10-2 in six such series this season. No back-to-backs this week but it sets up pretty well for Utah. The Thunder visit on Wednesday and they will be playing the second of a back-to-back. Then a terrible Dallas team heads to Salt Lake City on Friday. The Jazz close it out Sunday at Memphis, which is playing really well right now but probably over its head due to so many injuries. I would expect Utah to win both home games and the Grizzlies matchup is probably a toss-up.
The Jazz are 7-5-1 ATS on NBA odds at home and 7-5 ATS on the road.