Right here we go!
The second half of the season will get underway on Friday when Utah hosts Dallas in an enormous showdown between two groups battling for playoff positioning. The Jazz enter Friday ranked No. 4 within the Western Convention whereas the Mavericks are No. 5, simply 1.5 video games behind — making the battle between Donovan Mitchell and Luka Doncic much more thrilling.
However that recreation is only the start of what is anticipated to be essentially the most difficult stretch of the season for the Jazz.
Over the ultimate 24 video games, Utah will play opponents with a median profitable share of .517, which might rank because the fifth hardest schedule to shut out the season.
Eleven video games will probably be performed in opposition to groups presently ranked within the top-6 of both convention. When bumping that to the top-10 of every convention — these presently within the play-in — that quantity jumps to 17, together with 12 straight from March 14 by April 5.
“I really feel like one thing occurred inside our crew. … I really feel like we’re a crew that is attempting to perform one thing.”https://t.co/wdCQceBTuV
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) February 22, 2022
Whereas some could take a look at that schedule and suppose Utah might be in for a world of hassle over the ultimate two months of the season, the Jazz are a crew prepared for the problem.
It is tough to argue if one other crew within the league has confronted extra adversity from its gamers all through the previous two months than the Jazz.
Though they have been the final crew within the league to have a participant enter well being and security protocols, as soon as they did, Utah started to lose gamers left and proper.
Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert missed prolonged time coping with accidents whereas prized free-agent acquisition Rudy Homosexual obtained a late begin to the season and has been sidelined with proper knee soreness.
5 of Utah’s high 9 rotation gamers have missed at the least 12 video games this season, together with former all-star Mike Conley, arguably essentially the most essential piece of the Utah puzzle.
It is tough to beat these points, however the Jazz refused to panic in January amidst the wrestle. There was a whole lot of perception within the locker room that after the crew obtained wholesome, they’d be capable to flip issues round — they usually did, as evidenced by a six-game profitable streak proper earlier than the all-star break.
“That is the mark of a crew that is composed, and also you perceive you have to undergo adversity to get to the highest,” Mitchell mentioned. “It is having enjoyable with the sport, even in our losses. I am unable to say our losses have been enjoyable, however you take a look at the trouble. … The power is simply completely different.”
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) February 15, 2022
The excellent news is that the Jazz needs to be in command of their very own future in the event that they need to keep within the high 4. They face Phoenix twice and have single video games in opposition to the Warriors and Grizzlies, however will tackle the Mavericks thrice.
When rolling and in a rhythm, the Jazz are extraordinarily robust to beat — they’ve three separate win streaks of six video games or extra, beginning the season 7-1 and 26-9. The offense is tops within the recreation and the protection, when lively and speaking, is able to being the most effective.
However in keeping with head coach Quin Snyder, if Utah needs to take the following step, they should be higher at closing out video games. When a crew is susceptible, he needs to see his gamers step on their opponent’s throats and finish it, not get lackadaisical and allow them to again in. It has been a problem for the Jazz this season however is one which’s simply fixable.
“There’s a level once we’ve had alternatives to push away and break open a recreation,” Snyder mentioned. “That is the purpose the place we have got to acknowledge and really feel the sport and play these possessions with extra focus and extra recognition of that time within the recreation and the way pivotal it’s.”
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) February 17, 2022
Sadly, if the Jazz are to achieve success closing out video games, the vast majority of them must come on the street. Utah will finish the season with separate 5 and six-game street journeys.
After the house recreation in opposition to Dallas, the Jazz will play 5 video games in 9 days, beginning in Phoenix and ending in Dallas. The excellent news is Utah will play Houston, New Orleans, and Oklahoma Metropolis in between, three groups that rank within the backside of the standings within the Western Convention.
Nonetheless, the ultimate massive street journey of the season is as brutal because it will get, starting within the Huge Apple and ending in Southern California’s sunny seashores.
Utah will play a back-to-back in opposition to New York and Brooklyn, the latter of which ought to function Ben Simmons and Kevin Durant suiting up for the Nets. Then come video games in opposition to Boston and Charlotte, two groups presently within the Jap Convention playoff image. Utah wraps up the journey with a ultimate showdown in opposition to Dallas and a rematch of final season’s playoffs in opposition to the Clippers.
| Final evening @JordanClarksons made his 439th three-pointer in a Utah uniform, making him No. 10 all-time in Jazz historical past. https://t.co/cca7oQf9iw
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) February 15, 2022
The Jazz are presently 15-12 on the street this season however have misplaced their final 5 video games away from Vivint Enviornment. However lastly wholesome, motivated and on the identical web page, anticipate Utah to make a late-season push and enter the postseason as authentic title contenders.
“It is about embracing the wins and the losses, and I consider in our group,” Gobert mentioned. “I actually consider that we are able to accomplish our objective. … Every thing that we have been by solely helped us develop and have ready us even for that second when it comes. I am excited for the second a part of the season, and I do know that we will be able to make a push.”