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 sport is just the start of what is anticipated to be probably 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 shall be performed towards groups at the moment ranked within the top-6 of both convention. When bumping that to the top-10 of every convention — these at the moment within the play-in — that quantity jumps to 17, together with 12 straight from March 14 by April 5.
“What can be irritating, what can be disappointing, can be us not taking part in as much as our potential,” Rudy Gobert mentioned. “It is as much as what we all know we will do as a workforce. … We all know what we will accomplish, now it is about executing it and doing it collectively.”
“I really feel like one thing occurred inside our workforce. … I really feel like we’re a workforce that is attempting to perform one thing.”https://t.co/wdCQceBTuV
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) February 22, 2022
Whereas some might 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 workforce prepared for the problem.
It is troublesome to argue if one other workforce within the league has confronted extra adversity from its gamers all through the previous two months than the Jazz.
Though they had been the final workforce 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 Gobert missed prolonged time coping with accidents whereas prized free-agent acquisition Rudy Homosexual received a late begin to the season and has been sidelined with proper knee soreness.
5 of Utah’s high 9 rotation gamers have missed not less than 12 video games this season, together with former all-star Mike Conley, arguably probably the most essential piece of the Utah puzzle.
It is troublesome to beat these points, however the Jazz refused to panic in January amidst the battle. There was quite a lot of perception within the locker room that when the workforce received wholesome, they’d be capable of flip issues round — and so they did, as evidenced by a six-game profitable streak proper earlier than the all-star break.
“That is the mark of a workforce 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 had 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 ought to be in charge 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 towards the Warriors and Grizzlies, however will tackle the Mavericks thrice.
When rolling and in a rhythm, the Jazz are extraordinarily powerful 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 sport and the protection, when lively and speaking, is able to being among the best.
However based on head coach Quin Snyder, if Utah desires to take the subsequent step, they should be higher at closing out video games. When a workforce is susceptible, he desires 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 after we’ve had alternatives to push away and break open a sport,” Snyder mentioned. “That is the purpose the place we have to acknowledge and really feel the sport and play these possessions with extra focus and extra recognition of that time within the sport 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 should come on the highway. Utah will finish the season with separate 5 and six-game highway journeys.
After the house sport towards 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 large highway 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 towards New York and Brooklyn, the latter of which ought to characteristic Ben Simmons and Kevin Durant suiting up for the Nets. Then come video games towards Boston and Charlotte, two groups at the moment within the Japanese Convention playoff image. Utah wraps up the journey with a remaining showdown towards Dallas and a rematch of final season’s playoffs towards the Clippers.
| Final night time @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 at the moment 15-12 on the highway this season however have misplaced their final 5 video games away from Vivint Area. However lastly wholesome, motivated and on the identical web page, count on Utah to make a late-season push and enter the postseason as legit title contenders.
“It is about embracing the wins and the losses, and I consider in our group,” Gobert mentioned. “I actually consider that we will accomplish our objective. … All the things 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’ll be able to make a push.”