The NBA released the first half of the 2020-2021 season last week, and it became a lot easier to mentally prepare for basketball being back in our lives. The schedule release is always fun. You get some real life games to look at on paper and say “oooh, that will be a good one”. Although we only have half of the games currently for this upcoming season, there are still plenty of games that stick out as being juicy on the Utah Jazz schedule. Here’s the top 10 games to look forward to during the first half of this season:
10: New Orleans Pelicans - January 21st 8:00 PM TNT
National TV games seems to always take precedence in my brain for the best games of the year. The Jazz only have 10 (4 non-NBA TV) national TV games during the first half of the season, so we will need to enjoy these as they come. Regardless of TV station, this game will be a fun one. This game will be the 2nd game in two days for the Pelicans in Utah, which is a normal thing in a very abnormal season. Derrick Favors will have his shot at revenge against his former team, and things didn’t seem to go very well for Favs in the Big Easy. There was no drama or anything, but Favors just didn’t seem to fit in the system, and seemed to get some heat from some fans after tough stretches. Favors is now back home, where he fits better than anywhere else in the whole world, and he will get his shot at revenge on January 21st. The Jazz and Pelicans also had some CRAZY games last season, including Donovan Mitchell and Brandon Ingram almost going for 100 combined points in a single game.
The Spida-BI duel will be fun to watch again. Sprinkle some Zion in there (maybe, who knows) and this game will be nice.
9: @ Charlotte Hornets - February 5th 5:00 PM
Call me petty, but I still look forward to playing against Gordon Hayward. I don’t think I’ll ever change. I just think it adds so much energy to the game when there’s the added element of emotions that comes with revenge games, on both sides. The whole time Hayward was in Boston, it was just weird. The horrible leg injury, taking the backseat to younger players, Kyrie leaving, etc. This game against the Jazz really should be Hayward’s best shot at revenge. He’s the dude now in Charlotte, and has a lot more power for destruction in his hands than he did in Boston. As long as he’s healthy, expect Hayward to bring in in this game. Seeing LaMelo Ball on the floor against the Jazz will be fun too.
8: vs. Philadelphia 76ers - February 15th 7:00 PM
Anytime the Jazz play the 76ers, you can expect some drama. Whether it’s between Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell or Rudy Gobert and Joel Embiid, there always seems to be something. Besides the drama lately, it hasn’t been fun watching the Jazz vs the Sixers in recent years.
Utah has lost 5 of their last 6 games against the 76ers dating back to the 2017-18 season, so there hasn’t been much to talk smack about. The main reason this game makes the list is because a win would be very sweet. Seeing Mitchell go off against Ben Simmons, or seeing Rudy have a big dunk or block on Embiid would do things to a lot of Jazz fans.
7: @ Portland Trail Blazers - December 23rd 8:00 PM
Opening night!! It feels crazy to think that this game is less than two weeks away. Man, it’s gonna be nice to have basketball back. Opening night games are always a treat. No one really knows what to expect until that first game, and sometimes things get a little crazy. The Blazers have become a popular choice above the Jazz this upcoming season in terms of wins and championship odds, at least on the national radar. Would be huge to see the Jazz come out and smack the Blazers in the mouth and get some respect back. DISCLAIMER: Damian Lillard might go off for 50, 60, 70 points, and it might be very hard to watch.
6: vs. Minnesota Timberwolves - December 26th 7:00 PM
NBA basketball back in Salt Lake City. This will be the home opener for the 2020-21 season, and it will be an interesting one. The Jazz announced weeks ago that they plan on allowing 1500 fans in the arena, so it’s going to be a little different than your typical home opener. Nonetheless, basketball being played inside Vivint Arena is a big, fat W. Especially when Ricky Rubio is there as well, which he will be playing for his new (old) team. I love Ricky, and you can bet that I will be thoroughly enjoying myself on the evening of December 26 watching him play against the Jazz. If Ricky has a good game, I might be a little reckless on twitter.
5: vs. Dallas Mavericks - January 29th - 8:00 PM ESPN
One of the best and most exciting games of the season last year was against the Mavericks in Salt Lake City.
The NBA gave us a rematch on a Friday night on ESPN, where things always seem to get a little crazy. The Mavericks have climbed up the ranks in the Western Conference among analysts and oddsmakers, and will do just that if Luka continues to improve and they get some help from their other players. Luka Doncic is one of my favorite players to watch in the NBA, so seeing this matchup in the national spotlight will be great. Lowkey watchout for the Trey Burke revenge game..
4: vs. Los Angeles Lakers - February 24th - 8:00 PM ESPN
The Jazz got swept by the Lakers last season, which was the first time since 1986. This was just really hard to watch as Jazz fan last season. LeBron and Co. went on to win the NBA championship in the bubble, and they got even better this offseason.
This will be the first matchup against the reigning champs, in the bright lights on primetime ESPN NBA Wednesday. If the Jazz are going to be a contender, they need to beat contending teams. Beating the Lakers would be huge for their confidence and morale, especially if they were to meet later on in the playoffs (hopefully WCF).
3: @ Denver Nuggets - January 17th - 6:00 PM
This will be the first opportunity to right the wrongs of the 2020 NBA playoffs. The Jazz made the short list of teams to blow 3-1 leads, in an absolutely heartbreaking way. The Nuggets advanced and came back from a 3-1 AGAIN vs. the Clippers, and made it to the WCF. This showed that the Jazz were good enough to make the WCF last year. Had they closed that series out, who knows what could have happened against the Clippers. But obviously that didn’t happen, and we are on to 2021.
Will Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray go off for 50-point each like they did all series long in the bubble? Will Rudy get his revenge on Jokic? The Jazz-Nuggets series was one of the best series in the playoffs last year, so if we get some of that same energy, this could be an awesome game.
2: vs Phoenix Suns - December 31st - 7:00 PM
After acquiring Chris Paul this offseason, the Suns have become the NBA darling. They have catapulted into many Western Conference projections, with some having them as high as the 3 seed. If Chris Paul can play the same level he did last season, this team will no doubt be very dangerous. Jazz-Suns always seems to have a bit of spice to it, mostly because of the Donovan Mitchell vs. Devin Booker debate which always brings out the most respectful and cordial comments from Jazz and Suns fans. Add some Chris Paul to this matchup and this game goes from spicy to flaming hot Cheeto. The Jazz have been a little disrespected from a lot of analysts this offseason with a lot of them picking several teams over the Jazz in the west, with one of them being the Suns. This game could be a good opportunity to show that the Jazz still belong near the top of the Western Conference.
1: vs Boston Celtics - February 9th - 8:00 PM TNT
This is my favorite game on the schedule so far this season, for several reasons. Yes, I know Hayward is gone. But it’s still the Celtics, man! Beating the Celtics always feels good. This game will showcase some of the brightest basketball players in the world, and future of the NBA in Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum. Both Mitchell and Tatum signed juicy max contract extensions this offseasons, and will look to take a leap in their respective games. Ever since their duel in the summer league years ago, I could tell these two were going to have some epic games against eachother throughout their NBA careers.
Last year we got an awesome game between these two on national TV, and the NBA rewarded them with another this coming February. This is only one of two games the Jazz play on TNT, so hopefully it’s a great one.