SALT LAKE CITY - Before Monday's surprise victory over the Houston Rockets, Jazz point guard Trey Burke raved about the atmosphere inside EnergySolutions Arena.
Although there are plenty of empty seats on game nights, Burke acknowledged the fans who show up to watch the Jazz in the midst of a difficult and challenging season.
"Our fans are great," he said prior to scoring a career-high 21 points in Utah's 109-103 win. "We have some of the best fans in the NBA, in my opinion. I haven't been everywhere else but the support here is crazy even when we're losing."
The Jazz (4-15) ended Houston's five-game winning streak with a combination of teamwork, good shooting and energetic defense. The hometown crowd, listed officially at 15,801, came alive as Burke and his teammates pushed for the upset.
"The fans surprised me today," Burke said afterward. "They were great again. They were loud. Even when (the Rockets) went on their run, (the crowd was) tremendous for us."
As a rookie, the 21-year-old point guard is still getting familiar with the ins and outs of an NBA season. His raw energy and excitement for the league has entertained some of his veteran teammates who seem to find his enthusiasm both curious and endearing. On the other hand, his spirit has been infectious as evidenced by the way the Jazz have won three of their last four games.
For his part, Burke has remained even-keeled and even humble about his role with the team.
And Jazz fans? Well, he's clearly a fan of theirs.
"I don't think they understand how big that is for us," he said.
Burke specifically mentioned a skit involving Utah's mascot, Bear, and a couple of Houston "fans" that were planted in the lower bowl of the arena.
Bear razzed the fans, who wore Rockets jerseys, and when they playfully pushed back they were escorted from the arena, much to the delight of the crowd.
Such routines aren't uncommon in NBA arenas, through Burke didn't seem to know it.
"I don't know if it was a skit up in the crowd with the Houston guy, but that was kind of funny," he said. "But I think that was one of the biggest keys tonight. (The fans) don't understand how big they were for us."
When the Jazz return to ESA tonight they'll need all the support they can get as they play host to the Indiana Pacers (16-2), owners of the NBA's best record.
Jazz guard Gordon Hayward praised Burke for providing a spark but cautioned that he and his young teammates aren't finished products yet.
"We still have a lot of improvement to do as a basketball team (and) as individuals," he said. "But it's good to see we didn't let (the Houston game) slip like we did earlier in the season."
Burke and Hayward combined to score 27 points on 11-for-13 shooting in the first quarter against Houston.
Burke said that was a matter of Hayward getting open and hitting some big shots. Hayward, on the other hand, said it was a combination of Burke's ability to run the offense and his teammates' ability to execute plays.
"Things that people didn't see probably were the screens that were set as well," he said. "Great screens to get me open and great passes, the whole package. It takes all five guys."
All five guys and a good crowd behind them.
Contact reporter Jim Burton at 801-625-4265, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @StandardExJimbo.