Last season the Utah Jazz, developmentally retarded and needed to be taken away from it's primary care giver, only managed to win 25 games. That last win was a double overtime road game that prevented the team from tying a 34 year record for reaching only 24 wins in a season. (For you history nerds out there, it was two games from tying a forty year record as well.) Last season was not fun and those who suggest it was their best year ever as a fan probably have different standards than I do. You could say that last season made many fans miserable.
Thankfully, misery is gone as a lot of the hallmarks from the older, palliative version of the Jazz, are gone. New, youthful General Manager Dennis Lindsey loves analytics and is willing to actually do his job. New, youthful head coach Quin Snyder is making dynamic changes with the offense, and the defense is getting better too! Players who were previously mothballed are destroying cities, and members of the much maligned street gang, the C4, are happy and are helping the team win games (you know, the ones who are still here and healthy).
All season long the team has competed in most of their games, and blowouts are fewer and more far in-between than in previous seasons. The Jazz have taken their show on the road, and won games on playoff team's own home floors. And more than anything else, the Jazz have become giant killers, beating the Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat, Memphis Grizzlies, Chicago Bulls, Golden State Warriors, and Portland Trail Blazers this season.
So in this year of obvious improvement, can a near historical turn around be in the cards? With two wins in their belt, how many more can the Jazz win? There are 8 weeks left of this season. For the team to equal last season they'd need to win five more games, or 0.63 games a week. For the team to go for 30 wins they'd need to win 10 more games (duh!), and win 1.25 games per week. Did someone say 35 games? That's 15 more wins, and a whopping 1.88 games per week.
I'm going to save my prediction for the end, but what do you think? Let's look at the eight weeks in question:
The San Antonio Spurs aren't anyone's fool. They are healthy and ready to play. The #7 seed in the West is only 6-4 in their last 10, but have lost their last two games. I don't expect them to lose three. Utah shouldn't feel too bad, because they'll host the hapless Los Angeles Lakers at home two nights later. If you can name eight healthy players on their team right now you win a cookie. If the Jazz win this game, they'll win a cookie too -- the Lakers are 6-22 on the road this year and are horrible. Utah finishes the week with a back to back set @ the Denver Nuggets and then at home hosting the Milwaukee Bucks. Denver is in a tail spin, losing 8 of their last 10 games. They're not hurt, they still have Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried, Danilo Gallinari, Jameer Nelson, J.J. Hickson, and Randy Foye (who may be bought out soon) . . . so it's not like the Jazz should expect a win. But with how these two teams are playing recently, I don't see why not. After all, the Jazz aren't playing like they want to get their head coach fired. The Nuggets? It's less certain. Last on this slate are the Milwaukee Bucks. The new look bucks still have a very confusing roster. They are in the process of, or have just completed, the buyout of Larry Sanders. They s till do have talent and length in Michael Carter-Williams, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and company. No Jabari Parker makes them easier to guard. But this season Milwaukee is gunning for the playoffs in the East. The #6 East seed plays defense, and will be playing their second game of a back to back, and a third game in four nights, and on the road. That's the same situation as the Jazz, but at home. Two young teams, possibly tired, going up against one another.
Prediction: The Jazz go 2-2 here; 3-1 would be great, but let's not get greedy.
The Jazz go out on the road for the next four games, as this is the last East road trip of the year -- and it's possibly the easiest one, four games in six nights and only one back-to-back set. It bleeds into the next week, so we'll only occupy ourselves with the first three games. I do not think that the Memphis Grizzlies will be fooled twice at home. We did beat them when they were playing without a starter though, so I recognize that. But let's also recognize that the Jazz have been beating all of their teams without a starter since Alec Burks went down. I don't know the status of Vince Carter, currently injured, but I expect Memphis to win this one. The Jazz then fly out to play the Boston Celtics the very next night. It's not the easiest flight, but it's not the worst. The Celtics will be without center Jared Sullinger, who is going to be out for the next few weeks with a stress fracture in his left foot. Kelly Olynyk is currently injured too, but expected to return within the week and will be ready to battle. Boston's roster doesn't care me, and even if they are 12-15 at home, I don't think the Jazz should go into their building expecting to get blown out. Play these guys. Fight these guys. You should beat these guys. The Philadelphia 76ers make no sense. The Jazz should win this game.
Prediction: The Jazz go 2-1 this week, anything less is a failed week.
The Jazz play four games this week, they finish off their East road trip, and then start a five game home stand, that bleeds into the following week. The Jazz face some up and down teams during this stretch. The Brooklyn Nets are fighting to hold onto their playoff spot (currently tied for 8th in the East), and just made a trade to bring in Thaddeus Young. They still have Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, with the enigma of Brook Lopez in the middle. Their bench is curiously skilled, though. They should beat the Jazz. On the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge, the New York Knicks are atrocious. This is a home game and should be a win. The Houston Rockets face the Jazz as game 3 of a 4 game road trip @ DEN, @ POR, @ UTA< and @ LAC. This could be a *trap* game for them, especially if Dwight Howard is still not playing. He is currently without an official timetable for return, but the #3 team in the West have other options that Utah will have to worry about. I'm not convinced this is a loss. Similarly, I'm not convinced that the next game, hosting the Detroit Pistons, is a win. Detroit is in #playoffpush mode, having gone from 12th in the East with the hopes of being in the playoffs. We did that same thing a few years back, but got some help from tanking teams. Detroit made a number of moves at the deadline to get better. Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Caron Butler, Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond, and Tayshaun Prince should be enough to give the Jazz trouble while Brandon Jennings is injured. If our team continues to play at a high level though, this should be a win.
Prediction: The Jazz go 2-2 this week, this is our home stand after all!
The fun kind of stops this week, as the team plays the Lakers, and three teams trying to improve their playoff standings. The Charlotte Hornets are in that battle against a few teams for the East's last spot. The Washington Wizards are fighting for homecourt. And the Golden State Warriors are fighting to be the team that finishes with the most wins this season. Kemba Walker is targeting March 16th for his return, spelling Mo Williams from killer duties. I can't predict how good or how poorly this team will play, but I'll give the Hornets the benefit of their aspirations here.
Prediction: The Jazz go 1-3 this week, Utah can't play bad teams forever.
I see the Jazz having trouble this week as well. I'm not going to dwell on it, but unless some better team has injuries, I don't see much magic this week.
Prediction: The Jazz go 1-3 this week, unless you expect another road win in Denver.
Three games, @ Minnesota, vs. Denver, and @ Phoenix. By this time, April, the team may be picking up steam, or losing some of it. I do know that the T-Wolves aren't going to be in the fight, and probably not the Denver Nuggets either. If the Phoenix Suns, all re-loaded with Brandon Knight, Danny Granger, Marcus Thornton, Reggie Bullock, and Brandan Wright, are still fighting for a spot I bet they're not going to want to lose to us this late in the playoff race game.
Prediction: The Jazz go 2-1 this week, they really shouldn't ever finish this week with less than 2 wins unless there's an injury.
This is the last full week of the regular season. Four games, a home and home against the Sacramento Kings, and then two playoff teams in a back to back set. The law of the universe states that it's very hard to win consecutive games against the same team in the regular season, in a home and home series. Even against the Kings the Jazz have proven this truism many times, even once in recent years losing at home and winning on the road in the very next game. I abide the rules of the universe, and this will be a split. The next two games should be losses.
Prediction: The Jazz go 1-3 this week, unless the Universe keeps changing its' own rules.
The last two games of the season should be losses unless one team has already locked up a spot and will be resting players. Dallas is more likely to be fighting for their spot, yet more likely to rest their older players because they are old. That would also be "fan appreciation night" for the Jazz. I still think the Jazz lose there. And lose against the Rockets, no double overtime last game of the season win on the road this season.
Prediction: Utah finishes this week 0-2, and that's the season.
All said and done, at my most homer-ific, and without knowing the injury situation for the other teams in the future -- I feel like the Jazz have a good shot at winning 31 games this year. It's not as impressive as winning 35, but it's still 1.38 wins per week over the last two months of the season. That's pretty good for a team that had a whole lot of ping pong balls last season and have a rookie head coach at the reigns. It's a step in the right direction for a team that was trending downwards for several years in a row. A 30+ season in the Western conference where you are missing a starter, and have to trade away another one in February for trash, isn't bad at all. Well done Jazz, if you can reach my homer-ific expectations.
N.B. Yes, I did have images for each month all ready to go, but never uploaded them to the site this year.