Waaay back in July I predicted the Jazz would go 7-5 in February. And I somehow spaced on doing a more recent preview of the month because, uh, space yetis. Yes, that will do nicely. Okay, so space yetis happened and I did not do a great preview -- HOWEVER we all pretty much felt like after the All-Star Break that we'd finish the month either 3-1 or 2-2. Of course, the opposite happened and now morale is pretty low. Especially because we managed to drop two home games in a row, against Eastern conference teams on the tail end of long road trips.
Let's go into February in more detail though:
The team managed to go 6-6, which is one less win than I predicted. And we currently stand at 31-27. That's a winning percentage of 53.5%. We've had bad luck (or regular Jazz luck) with injuries to our starters this season, but remain 2 games (4 more wins than losses) above .500, so that's the good-ish news. The bad news is that we're finished with the easy part of the schedule.
The badd-er news is that we dropped three more home games this past month, and went 1-4 vs. the Eastern Conference. Our 5-2 record against the West was "okay", we had spectacular wins against the Oklahoma City Thunder and then a rare road win on the second night of a back to back against the Minnesota Timberwoles. But we also had bad losses like getting killed by the Sacramento Kings in their gym (pretty big night for their fans), and losing in OT to a Boston Celtics team I really would have wanted us to beat. We had some help playing other injured teams too, like the Milwaukee Bucks without Larry Sanders, or the Wolves without Kevin Love.
Overall we broke even, however I expected our team to have done better. Specifically win one more game in February, and be 32-26. So, not to pat myself on the back, my July 30th prediction for our record isn't that far off, only one game. Not too shabby.
March doesn't look "bad", but the deeper you go you recognize that it's a beast. This month will most likely make or break our team this season. If we're going to come together and solidify a 6-8th seed in the upcoming playoffs, a big part of it will be a better than expected showing this month. If we're going to fracture and crack down the stretch, and risk the mercenary individualism that has so far been muted all season long, a big part of it will be a worse than expected showing this month. My prediction back in July was that we'd finish this month 8-8, and be 40-34 to finish the month. Let's dig deep and find out if that prediction has changed.
Overall it's 16 games in 31 days. That's an average of 0.516 games per day. That number is our second most brutal ratio of the season, November was at 0.533, but it's still way more game-filled than any other month of the season that had us clocking in at 0.4-something games per day. It's 7 home games (only two vs. current playoff teams, however four of them are the 3rd game in four nights) vs. 9 road games (6 against current playoff teams, another 2 against playoff hopefuls). So just to review:
- We play our second most busy month on the whole schedule this month
- We play more games on the road than at home
- Our home games look winnable, but our road games are going to be against tough teams
The Jazz have three back to back sets: @ Chicago Bulls / @ New York Knicks; @ Dallas Mavericks / vs. Philadelphia 76ers; and @ Portland Trail Blazers / vs. Brooklyn Nets. On the tail end of a few of those you have to add in a few third games in four nights series' as well. In total, we have 5 different 3 in 4 nights situations. After CHI/NYK we have the Detroit Pistons at home after a night off. After DAL/PHI we have the Phoenix Suns at home after a night off. And let's not forget that @NYK, vs PHI, and vs, BKN are all the 3rd game of a night off as well. Fun.
The 'winnable games' appear to be tonight hosting the Charlotte Bobcats (though injuries may hurt us here); @ Cleveland Cavaliers; vs Detroit Pistons (who are missing Andre Drummond); vs. Philadelphia 76ers; vs. Phoenix Suns . . . and that's it. That's 5 games in a 16 game month.
March Week 1 & 2:
- March 1st, Friday -- Charlotte Bobcats @ Utah Jazz
- March 4th, Monday -- Utah Jazz @ Milwaukee Bucks
- March 6th, Wednesday -- Utah Jazz @ Cleveland Cavaliers
- March 8th, Friday -- Utah Jazz @ Chicago Bulls
- March 9th, Saturday -- Utah Jazz @ New York Knicks
Because there's only one game this 'week', I combined these two weeks. Friday, tonight, like, 4 hours from now, HAS to be a win. The Jazz need to come out and take care of business, even if we're injured. WE have to start the month out right, and we have to stop this losing streak. A loss tonight would be disastrous and may elicit or precipitate our team sliding for a bit. It. Just. Cannot. Be. Allowed. To. Happen.
The Bucks lost to us and want payback. This will be the litmus test for this road trip (kind of like the Tor / Bos / Phi / Was roadie back at the beginning of this season). If we win that one, we could be okay. The second game, the Cavs, should be the easiest game on this trip and is a must win. The must wins now are that much more important -- especially because by my count we're behind by one game. Bulls / Knicks back to back. Not good. Joakim Noah is balling right now, and Derrick Rose could be returning soon. The Knicks are great at home. This could be a 4-1 first 5 games, or a 1-4 first 5. I'm looking at 2 wins in the first five. I'm just not that confident in our team right now. I hope to be wrong, and if proven wrong -- I'll admit it.
March Week 3:
- March 11th, Monday -- Detroit Pistons @ Utah Jazz
- March 13th, Wednesday -- Utah Jazz @ Oklahoma City Thunder
- March 16th, Saturday -- Memphis Grizzlies @ Utah Jazz
There are only 3 games this week, with 2 being at home. Both of these home games are must wins. I could care less about the OKC game on the road -- I know the refs will make us foul every 42 seconds in this game. I'd love for the Jazz to go 2-1 this week. There's plenty of space between the OKC game and the home game hosting MEM . . . but Memphis is good, and the game is on NBA TV. We're not usually that good on NBA TV. Compounding things is that Detroit faces us right AFTER this long 4 game Eastern Conference road trip. If we do well on that trip I may feel more confident here. But this is a Detroit team that has already beaten us once this season, and it will be the 3rd game in 4 nights for us. If we're super injured during this trip (last week) some of our guys will be gassed. I just don't know. I'm going to err on the side of caution and say the Jazz go 1-2 this week. And again, if I'm wrong I will only be happy to admit being wrong.
March Week 4 & 5:
Pictured Above: Hard mode
- March 18th, Monday -- New York Knicks @ Utah Jazz
- March 20th, Wednesday -- Utah Jazz @ Houston Rockets
- March 22nd, Friday -- Utah Jazz @ San Antonio Spurs
- March 24th, Sunday -- Utah Jazz @ Dallas Mavericks
- March 25th, Monday -- Philadelphia 76ers @ Utah Jazz
- March 27th, Wednesday -- Phoenix Suns @ Utah Jazz
- March 29th, Friday -- Utah Jazz @ Portland Trailblazers
- March 30th, Saturday -- Brooklyn Nets @ Utah Jazz
Why did I group all of these games together instead of splitting it into two different weeks? Well, because there is no time between games here. This is a marathon with no appreciable save point. We play the Knicks in our gym, three games after playing them before. Then we go in for a full-on, old schol Texas Triangle, IMMEDIATELY the next night fly in to play the Sixers at home. Have a night off. And then play the Suns at home. Then we have another night off, play Portland in Portland . . . and then face Deron Williams back in Utah, in our most weakest and most weariest state. That's a schedule loss. That will be the 2nd game of a back to back set, the 3rd game in 4 nights, the 5th game in 7 nights, and the 8th game in 13 nights. I've never had to chart that before. It's the best time ever for Deron to finally exact his revenge and beat the team that traded him.
At full strength I think we can handle this part of the schedule. We're not at full strength. Here would be a good time to use an NBA-DL player from a vacated Raja Bell spot -- but I don't expect our front office to notice this. I *really* don't think that they pour over every single detail at the level that I do. After all, they sleep; I do not.
Hubris aside, this is a rough last 8 games of the month. For us to reach the 8-8 month record I predicted back in July we're either going to have to pick up an extra win or two in the previous three weeks (like on our East road trip, or take care of business at home? Or beat OKC in OKC?) . . . or just agree to fall short of 8-8 this month. I don't see us doing better than 3-5 as we're currently constituted. If Mo Williams comes back, DeMarre Carroll is healthy, and Al and Paul can play hurt . . . I'm less worried. If it's running our offense through Randy Foye . . . then I'm very worried.
Amar's Prediction: 6-10 in March, 37-37 Overall
I'm not terribly confident right now, because we just bombed our last three games -- but they were all against playoff teams and we're hurt. We're starting this month off hurt too. So What's different? I think last month we got too soft, especially with the long breaks and frequent, short, road trips. This month starts off with a galvanizing trip -- a four game Eastern one at that. Team come together during tough times. If all our year long chemistry wasn't just a show, we'll see it now. Also with Paul Millsap and Randy Foye both now no longer having to worry about delivery complications -- they're going to relax a bit more. And LOVE all the road trips as they get a full night's rest for once.
It's a hard month, but I think that we have a chance to come out looking like diamonds. Or, well, some other carbon based item of tangible hardness.
I guess being a .500 team was inevitable . . . at some point all the injuries and lack of road success was supposed to catch up with us. It looks like it will happen this month. I hope to be wrong, and I hope for the Jazz to surprise me again. And I would love it and be more than willing to tweet about how misguided I was.
March is a beast. If we're going to secure our playoff spot, it may be a product of what we do this month. If we are going to whither down the stretch, same deal. That said, history is a great teacher. LAST year we didn't have a great March, but got it together when it counted and made the playoffs. If we struggle this month it doesn't mean it's over -- it just means we have to really, really want it during the homestretch of April (where we play the Portland Trail Blazers, Denver Nuggets, New Orleans Hornets, Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder, Minnesota Timberwolves twice, and Memphis Grizzlies one last time).