The 2017-18 NBA season is just over two months away. The regular season schedule was released yesterday evening, and now it’s time to over-analyze future match-ups, stress about back-to-backs, and lose sleep over six-game road trips in December.
The upcoming season should be an exciting one for the Utah Jazz, featuring the new looks of updated jersey’s, rookie Donovan Mitchell, and point guard Ricky Rubio. There are plenty of games that stick out on paper, for several different reasons. Here is a look at the 2017-18 Utah Jazz schedule and which games are “must-watches” for every Jazz fan.
Denver Nuggets, October 18th
Opening night is always an exciting game to watch. No one really knows what to expect from the Jazz this season, as they experienced a pretty good sized makeover this off-season. The Jazz have not won their opening game of the season in five years, dating back to 2012 when they defeated the Dallas Mavericks on opening night.
Former Jazzman Paul Millsap makes a return with his new team in the Denver Nuggets, a squad that many have picked to leapfrog the Jazz in the Western Conference this season.
This game will also sport a few other firsts for the Jazz, such as the updates and renovations to Vivint SmartHome Arena, and the new Nike jerseys. Opening night vs the Denver Nuggets should be a great game, and is a must-watch for all Jazz fans.
At Minnesota Timberwolves, October 20th
Ricky Rubio makes his return to face his former team in the Minnesota Timberwolves on a Saturday night. Rubio spent six seasons playing in front of Timberwolves fans, and will want to put on a show for them, just wearing different colors.
Much like the Denver Nuggets, the Timberwolves made some dramatic upgrades this off-season and many are predicting them to finish better than the Jazz. With the additions of Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague, and Jamal Crawford, the Jazz will test their toughness and we will get a good idea of how the team fares against top NBA talent.
Denver Nuggets, November 28th
This game against the Nuggets will be the first game that the Jazz play on national TV. The Jazz will get an opportunity to showcase themselves on ESPN on a Tuesday night, and will hopefully already be proving people wrong at that point in the season.
Playing on national TV always gives players a great opportunity at making their cases for certain accolades, such as All-Star voting and end of season awards. Look for Rudy Gobert to have a great game in front of national NBA fans, pushing for his first-ever All-Star appearance after last year’s snub.
At Boston Celtics, December 15th
This match-up in mid-December should be the most interesting game of the first half of the season. The Jazz will take on former Utah demigod Gordon Hayward, on his new team after a very questionably-handled free agency decision process.
It will be entertaining to see how Hayward plays against his former team, as well as how many times Rudy Gobert swats him in the lane followed by a ruthless stare-down. Hayward hardly ever showed any emotion while on the basketball court, so don’t expect too much drama in this game at TD Garden in Boston.
This game also falls right in the middle of a brutal six-game road trip, of which the Jazz will also face the Cavs, Rockets, and Thunder. It will be a crucial victory to pick up, regardless of the fact that the Jazz will be facing Gordon Hayward.
At Golden State Warriors/ Cleveland Cavaliers, December 27th and 30th
The Jazz will face the reigning champs and runner-up in back-to-back games at the end of a tough December schedule. Nothing evaluates a team more than playing the best teams in the NBA, and the Jazz will do just that.
The Warriors swept the Jazz in the Western Conference Semi-Finals last season, so this should give Utah another chance at the probable best team in the NBA in all of their glory.
LeBron James and Co. will come into town a few days later, which is always a reason to watch in itself. The Jazz have played LeBron extremely tough over this career, and it always seems to be an entertaining game when The King is in town.
These two games will give the Jazz a good test of where they are at in the season, a good evaluation of how they match up with some of the best teams in the NBA.
At Sacramento Kings, January 17th
The main reason this game becomes notable, is former Jazzman George Hill. Hill’s free agent journey was not quite as rocky as Gordon Hayward’s, but still a little awkward considering how his fallout occurred.
Hill couldn’t help but feel a little undervalued after he and the Jazz failed to reach an agreement after wanting a max contract. It may turn into a game in which Hill tries to get a sliver of revenge at the Jazz for the way things happened. There are no clear indications that there is any beef between Hill an the Jazz, but some might occur naturally when they get on the court against each other.
Boston Celtics, March 28th
The game that every member of Jazz Nation has marked on their calendars. The Jazz will host Gordon Hayward and the Boston Celtics on a Wednesday night on the national stage televised on ESPN.
Perhaps too much has already been said and written about Hayward’s decision and how it affected the Utah Jazz. Even though the game comes relatively late in the season, you can be sure that Jazz fans will still have a fresh taste of betrayal in their mouths. This taste is not a good one, so it could get ugly when Hayward returns in late March.
There will be blood. There will be boos. There will be signs and gestures of fans that take it too far. All of the which is more reason to tune in to what could be the most watchable game of the 2017-18 season.
Portland Trail Blazers, April 11th
The Jazz will host the Portland Trail Blazers on the last game of their season come April 11th. The game is scheduled to be televised on ESPN, which could change due to flexed schedules and future changes in playoff implications.
Last season the difference between home-court advantage for the Jazz came down to a tie breaker after finishing the season with the same record as the Los Angeles Clippers. Every year it seems that the last game of the season has some type of implication with playoffs or seeding, so this game could become absolutely critical for the Jazz if they end up in that position.