Operation 82: January

Super *duper* late, but hey, here it is. If you’re new, this is where we look at the upcoming games for the month. Yes, we’re already five games into the month – a month that includes only 16 games – but this is still a month worth examining. (Previous Operation 82s are here: October, November, December)

So far we’ve won games against the Memphis Grizzlies (Jan 1st), my hometown Detroit Pistons (Jan 3rd), and the injury depleted Houston Rockets in overtime (Jan 8th). In between we’ve lost games to the Atlanta Hawks (Jan 5th), and the very same Memphis Grizzlies (Jan 7th). Starting the month the Jazz were 22-11, and now stand at 25-13. The Jazz are an up and down team right now, and have yet to find the quarter to quarter consistency that a team full of guys in their peak should have. Let’s investigate some of the other games this month . . .

Last Month Review:

I like the idea of reverse jinxing the team. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not; but, the end result is that if the Jazz play poorly, I did not get my hopes too high on paper. If they exceed my expectations then I can be a little happy about it. I said that the Jazz would go 7-7 last month, and lo and behold, they went 8-6. In the poll attached 40% of voters said the Jazz would win 8-9 games. Of course, 45% of the voters thought the Jazz would win 10-12. We still have a lot of optimists in our group – perhaps our inability to play 4 quarters of basketball and penchant for home losses will temper some enthusiasm this month? Who knows?

In terms of the "Big Games" I wrote about, the Jazz did not do so hot. The Jazz lost on December 11th @ Dallas. The Jazz also lost most of their games during the ‘Revenge Game Alley’, winning only against the Orlando Magic, Golden State Warriors, and Milwaukee Bucks during this period. The Jazz also lost BOTH games against the Portland Trailblazers (December 27th and 30th). A bright spot was the win in Minnesota, on December 22nd – Jefferson’s homecoming of sorts. Sadly, this game wasn’t an easy win as the Jazz had to fight tooth and nail just to get back into it after being down by 15.

This month was a victory month on paper – however all the games against good teams (save for Orlando) were losses this month. That’s not something to hang your hat upon.

Overview:

  • Total Games: 16
  • Home Games: 8
  • Road Games: 8
  • Vs. Western Conference: 7
  • Vs. West playoff teams (from last season): 2 (LA Lakers, San Antonio Spurs)
  • Back to back sets: 4 (@MEM/@HOU; @BOS/@PHI; @LAL/vs. SAS; @GSW/vs. CHA)
  • 3rd game in four nights: 5 (vs MEM; @HOU; @PHI; vs MIN; vs CHA)
  • 5th game in seven nights: 1 (vs CHA)
  • Longest Home Stretch: 3 games in 5 nights
  • Longest Road Trip: 5 games in 9 nights
  • Nationally televised games: 3 (@ PHI – NBA TV; vs SAS – ESPN; @ GSW – ESPN)

Big Games:

Wednesday, Jan 12th: vs. New York Knicks

This is tonight’s game, and it’s against a rejuvenated Knicks team that’s running wild on teams on offense. Amare Stoudemire is as athletic as anyone in the league at his size, and can score up and around almost all defenders. Deron Williams has trouble with Raymond Felton (ever since college). The Jazz are playing only so-so at home right now. The New York media is in town, and on twitter a number of them are already talking about prying Deron Williams away somehow. Jerks. This is a big game also because it will reunite the New York Knicks with their unprotected lottery pick – that we know now as Gordan Hayward. Hopefully we win this one to bring some semblance of normality back to Jazzland.

Friday, Jan 21st: @ Boston Celtics

Good teams win in Boston. We did this a few seasons ago when we were a good team, once in 2006, and again in 2008. A win there on Friday will put Deron Williams’ back at .500 in their home gym. The Celtics are a great challenge, and if we want to call ourselves contenders, then we need to contend there. Rajon Rondo is going stats crazy this season, and they are super big inside. The Celtics are an interesting team because a number of their role players now are guys that were (gasp) once young players who continued to get playing time – to the point that they are legit NBA players now. Doc Rivers is not a better coach than Jerry Sloan, but it’s not wrong to learn and improve as you continue your craft. Rivers has been able to develop players while still winning ball games. Guys like Kendrick Perkins, Rajon Rondo, and Big Baby are evidence of this. It’s a good measuring stick game for the Jazz, regardless of any other motivations.

Tuesday, Jan 25th: @ Los Angeles Lakers

We beat them earlier this season in our gym. We also beat them in preseason (twice I believe). Can we prevail against them on their home court? That’s the big test this month. It’s another measuring stick game, even if the Lakers aren’t playing their best – they seem to have the mental edge against us in the Staples center. Seem? That’s not quite right. They have some straight up Jedi mind control over the Jazz there. Ronnie Price seems to get up for these games. I hope the rest of the team will as well.

Wednesday, Jan 26th: vs. San Antonio Spurs

The very next night the Jazz face off against the Spurs – who are destroying the league right now. They are playing a faster tempo and incorporating new, young players on the fly – while still winning games. Funny how true contenders manage to do this . . . anyway, we’re pretty good on the second night of back to backs. This set, and our performance in it, will be a great litmus test for how the team is playing – not unlike the four game East trip was in November.

Monday, Jan 31st: vs. Charlotte Bobcats

This is the last game of the month, and one heck of a game. The Bobcats have a number of new coaches and are playing much better on offense. It took a buzzer beater to win against them, hopefully the Jazz will not spot them 20 points this time around. Winning games in our home is also important. This is a home game against a team we should beat. We should win this game, even though it will be the 5th game in seven nights for the Jazz. If not, well, then we’re just not as good as we should be at the late stage of the end of January. With the trade deadline looming, it will also be nice to see Boris Diaw again. I know some of us had our hearts set on the rotund Frenchman with a robust set of skills. *le sigh* Perhaps this will be the last time we Jazz fans will get to see him this season . . .

Prediction:

Before this month started I thought the Jazz would win 10 or 11 games this month. I’m going to go out on a limb and say the Jazz go 10-6 – that means I expect the Jazz to win only 7 more times this month. (Prove me wrong, Jazz – you should be going 12-4 this month!) The Mehmet Okur rehabilitation project has turned into an attempted resurrection, and our bench is still stealing money from the Miller Family. Our team continues to play poorly during long stretches to start games. Problems from the first 10 games persist, now going into games 40+. Maybe I’m just being a negative nancy. Hopefully I’m wrong.

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