Last season, back in our salad days of 2012-13 I felt as though the NBA had given the Utah Jazz "one of the best schedules" (Me, back on July 30th, 2012) in recent Jazz history. We are paying the piper this season with one of the rougher ones in recent history. The toughness really starts tonight, as the Utah Jazz embark on a four games in five nights road trip. Yes, I have a rudimentary schedule post out here -- but I have yet to do the big schedule post still. (I know, I'm slacking; I'll be done when it's done)
Yes, it begins. Only once in recent history have the Jazz performed well on their first Eastern roadie of the season (back when the Jazz beat up on the Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Atlanta Hawks, and Charlotte Bobcats. That was back when our head coach was Jerry Sloan, our best player was Deron Williams, and the rotations were not set in stone, so that if your starter was sucking, you'd be benched in the second half for Kyrylo Fesenko. Right now Jerry Sloan is back with the Jazz, Deron Williams is now on the other team, and Kyrylo Fesenko is helping his pal O.J. find the real killers.
These wins are not going to come easy. We can look at history as any indication, but history is not the present:
- The Jazz are 20-19 (51.3 win %) against the Nets in their gym, which is above water, but a lot of that was built on strong Stockton and Malone teams. The current Nets are built for a title run with a roster that sports Paul Pierce, Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson, Jason Terry, Kevin Garnett, AND two former Jazz players in Deron Williams and Andrei Kirilenko. We are not built for a title run this year. Brooklyn was recently spanked by the Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic and will out for blood.
- The Jazz have historically done poorly in Boston (11-32, which is a 25.6 winning %), and while Larry Bird isn't walking through that door, they still have the best player on either rosters in Rajon Rondo. No wins makes them hungry for one too, so while we're hungry, they are 25% more hungry, and at home. We've always seemed to have problems with guys like Gerald Wallace and Jeff Green, strong slashing forwards. Thankfully for us Rondo and Wallace may both be out, Rondo for sure. This could be our "we get a win night" if we make sure not to take guys like Avery Bradley and Brandon Bass for granted.
- Utah in Chicago? Let's just not go there. Guys like Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, and Jimmy Butler seem to thrive against our team. I'm not that impressed with Luol Deng, but I bet Carlos Boozer and his midrange game may be locked in against our squad. We don't match up very well against them, and they are an amazing defensive club.
- The Jazz have dominated the Raptors in Toronto, going 12-4 (75%) up north. But we're not John and Karl going up against Mighty Mouse anymore. Right now our team has a very shaky wing core, and Toronto is wing heavy with guys like DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Landry Fields, Terrence Ross, and Austin Daye ready to take it off the bounce. Their Euro big Jonas Valanciunas is a legit talent inside, and they have a guy like Steve Novak to fire from deep. But still, I think they have a distinct advantage somewhere . . . and it's at point guard thanks to Kyle Lowry.
Now, I'm not saying the Jazz point guards in Jamaal Tinsley and John Lucas III are bad. I'm just saying that Trey Burke should be better than them, and without him the disparity appears much larger than normal. Even without Rondo playing, we are in trouble. And if you compound our usual Eastern road trip flubs with a young club that doesn't know how to win yet (at home or on the road), then you have some serious questionmarks for these four games. Four games in five nights, two sets of back to backs. Boston isn't a good team, and we theorize that Toronto isn't either, but both of those games are the second of back to backs.
The Sidney Lowe substitution package (more on this later) is wearing our guys down and each time down the stretch our team ran out of legs and couldn't finish strong. Injuries are a part of that, and each of the teams we're playing are healthier than we are, and all at home.
Yup. It's going to be like this.