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Happy MLK Jr. Day! Celebrate with an early Jazz game; Downbeat #1822

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Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to a new week!

I did not have today off, and was surprised to see such early games on the slate today. It has been a long time since a regular season Jazz game happened while I was working. Best of wishes to the Jazz today.

The Jazz squandered their easy schedule last week, going 2-2. Winning both games against the Lakers but losing to both teams immediately behind them in the standings in the form of the Trailblazers and Kings.

As a result, the Jazz are now a whopping 3 games behind 7th in the West, and only 1 game ahead of the Kings.

The Jazz season is also starting to shape out like a traditional Jazz season of the Jazz being a solid team at home (12-9), and deplorable on the road (6-13).

This week, the Jazz play a 4-game East Coast road trip, starting with an early tip off against the Hornets today!

Jazz schedule for rest of week:

Wednesday at Knicks, 5:30pm

Friday at Nets, 5:30pm

Saturday at Wizards, 4:30pm

The Nets are the 3rd worst team in the NBA and the Hornets have lost 9 of their last 10 games, so the Jazz should be considered the favorites in those 2 contests. In the other 2 however, I expect some highly hard fought matches and would be happy if the Jazz win in either contest against  the Knicks or Wizards.

The status quo this week would be for the Jazz to go 2-2 this week, let's hope they can exceed expectations!

Gobert is back, and he had a historical game for the Jazz against the Lakers on Saturday posting a monstrous 18 point, 18 rebound, 5 block game!

His play inspired several highlight videos from a single game!

Here's my favorite (and purest) one:

There's a new post up on one of our star players, Gordon Hayward's website.

Go ahead and take a read in the link in the tweet:

Here's the conclusion to that post that serves as a nice rally cry for the Jazz as they enter the 2nd half of the season

We’re on the right track though. The experiences of the first half of this season, getting those games under our belts and giving ourselves a chance to win games, has been great for us. I’m excited to see where the next 43 games take us. We haven’t been playing near our best basketball yet. There are still a lot of games to be played and the story of this season is yet to be written. The chance remains to make it special.

Source: Gordon Hayward's Website

Hayward pays a lot of lip service to a lot of our bench players in his post.

Over in the Jazz twitterverse and probably a good amount in the SLC Dunk comment sections, our bench has gotten quite a bit of flack. I can see why, this team certainly appears to have about 7 quality rotation players, and 4 of them were injured at the beginning of the month.

When you're down 4 of your top players, your depth definitely gets put under the microscope.

I probably put in my fair share of criticism towards certain players that I will not mention at this moment.

So, to voice out my opinions on the positive side, I've been pleasantly surprised by certain players on this Jazz squad that have improved quite a bit during this time of injury-induced adversity.

Trey Lyles has had an astounding stretch of games as of late.

In the last 3 games, his score totals have been 16, 19, and 17 points. (Exum's career high is 15 points...)

He's grabbed 9 rebounds in 4 of his last 6 games.

Lyles has had quite the redemptive arc after coming out the first 30 games of the season as looking like quite the...well frankly, bust. But Lyles is a young 20 year old whose career arc is still way too premature to project. He may pan out to be a top 3 player on a team at some point. Alternatively, he may never be as good as Randy Foye...or something ridiculous like that.

My 2nd mention has to go out to Jeff Withey.

I wrote him off as a token 3rd string center who would never overly contribute to many wins (See Francisco Elson).

However, he has stepped up big in Favors/Gobert's absenses and has gotten multiple double doubles and has been another blocking machine on this team.

It's nice to see that in Withey and Lyles that the Jazz now have a couple more serviceable players they can add to the rotation come playoff time.

Zach Harper of CBS Sports wrote a motivating piece on Gobert's return from his MCL Sprain.

You should all take a look at it here:

An excerpt:

“I think we're doing great," Gobert said nearly at the halfway point of the season. "We had a lot of injuries that slowed us down a bit. We kept pushing and we kept fighting. I'm proud of the guys. I'm proud of the coaches. We know Favors is going to be back pretty soon. It's time to make the push and keep getting better. Make a strong push for the playoffs.”

Source: CBS Sports

Go get 'em Rudy, Go get 'em Jazz,

Go set a fire in the Western Playoff Race and don't look back!