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Utah Jazz last extended road trip will be a success with strategic rest


Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz have had a few notable road trips this season. Not being a team that is popular, star studded, or on TV a lot, the team plays more back to back games than the marketable teams, and usually get suck with longer road trips instead of the one or two game jaunts other teams get. This will be the sixth road trip for the Jazz this season. Utah started 2015-2016 off on one playing @ Detroit Pistons, @ Philadelphia 76ers, and @ Indiana Pacers. Later on in the same month of November they headed out East again to play @ Cleveland Cavaliers, @ Miami Heat, @ Orlando Magic, and @ Atlanta Hawks. In the middle of January when the weather was worst they were scheduled to play games @ Charlotte Hornets, @ New York Knicks, @ Brooklyn Nets, and @ Washington Wizards -- but that last game was postponed. No matter, it was added to the tail end of the Jazz' NEXT road trip, @ Phoenix Suns, @ Dallas Mavericks, @ New Orleans Pelicans, and @ Washington Wizards. (N.B. There was an All-Star break in-between there.) Utah had to cross the border twice in their next trip, @ Boston Celtics, @ Toronto Raptors, @ Memphis Grizzlies, and @ New Orleans Pelicans. All in all, the trips haven't been great, but the team is 7-11 on them this season.

Trip 1 Trip 2 Trip 3 Trip 4 Trip 5
1 DET L 87 92 -5 CLE L 114 118 -4 CHA L 119 124 -5 PHX W 98 89 9 BOS L 95 100 -5
2 PHI W 99 71 28 MIA L 91 92 -1 NYK L 111 118 -7 DAL W 121 119 2 TOR L 94 104 -10
3 IND W 97 76 21 ORL L 93 102 -9 BKN W 108 86 22 NOP L 96 100 -4 MEM L 88 94 -6
4 ATL W 97 96 1 WAS WAS L 89 103 -14 NOP W 106 94 12
W / L 2 1 W / L 1 3 W / L 1 2 W / L 2 2 W / L 1 3
Overall 2 1 Overall 3 4 Overall 4 6 Overall 6 8 Overall 7 11

The Jazz have won three games by 20+ points, and two others that were close to 10 point victory margins. They have only won two close games, a +2 victor over DAL, and a +1 victory over ATL. On the flip side the Jazz have never really been blown out, but lost three games by between 9 and 14 points, ORL, TOR, and WAS. There were two games that were close-ish in the end, MEM and NYK. But the troubling thing is that there have been six games that were close loses, between -1 and -5 points: MIA, CLE, NOP, DET, CHA, and BOS. Not being able to win close games on the road is why the Jazz have the record they have right now. (That an injuries). Utah can't worry about that right now though, because they need to worry about this sixth road trip of the season -- a five game sojourn that starts tonight @ Chicago Bulls, @ Milwaukee Bucks, @ Houston Rockets, @ Oklahoma City Thunder, and @ Minnesota Timberwolves.

2015 2016 Road Trip 06 CHI MIL HOU OKC MIN

2015 2016 Road Trip 06 CHI MIL HOU OKC MIN - Table

The Jazz have to play five games in eight nights -- it's not the worst possible thing to do. Two are back-to-back sets, and one is a single. There is only one game that is the 3rd game in four nights, and it's against the easiest team on the schedule -- a team that is likely to be eliminated from NBA Playoffs contention by the time we tip off a week from now.

The Utah Jazz are still without Dante Exum and Alec Burks -- whom I probably would have liked to have seen starting at PG and SG this year all things considered equal. And right now star player Gordon Hayward is battling through plantar fasciitis. He has missed the last two games (both wins) and is a game time decision for tonight. I understand this, and with the games spread out as they are, advocate for a measured, strategic play for when Gordon can and cannot go. I'd hold him out tonight against the Bulls, the tougher team in this back to back set. Have him play against the Bucks. Then have two nights off. Have him play against the Rockets. Sit him against the Thunder -- the game most likely to be a loss for the Jazz on this trip. Then have him have one more night of rest as the Jazz are idle. Then insert him against the Wolves to finish the trip. He has two nights off between each game -- and those are the games the team could target to win.

Of course, the team is on a four game streak and don't ever want to lose -- but not losing isn't the same thing as maximizing your wins. It would be great to run the table on this trip, but let's be real. The Jazz have only won 7 of 18 games on these trips this season, that's only 38.89% -- which is 9.64% worse than they are for the regular season. Injuries have played into that, but they've also played into the overall and home records. I don't think the Jazz should or could shoot for the moon here. Get three wins, and get back home safe and sound.

And those three wins could be @ Milwaukee, @ Houston (a must win), and @ Minnesota.

1. #UTAatCHI

The Jazz beat the Bulls in Utah in OT. They may want payback. They are also trying to hold onto their 8th seed out East. They want to win tonight, so do the Jazz. But the Bulls need this one more. Taj Gibson is going to play tonight with a hamstring injury, but Paul Gasol, Joakim Noah, and Cameron Bairstow are all out. The Jazz bigs of Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert should be good when they are in the game -- and this COULD be winnable without Gordon because of their injuries vs. ours. E'Twaun Moore is also going to be out, so it's not like they are at full strength for their back-court either. This will be the first time these two teams face off after the Kirk Hinrich / Shelvin Mack trade.

2. #UTAatMIL

The Bucks are too far back to make a #PlayoffPush this year, but they may want to still win as much as possible. It's not going to be an easy game, as it's the second night of a back to back -- but these two cities are close enough that it's not likely to be too arduous a journey. The Bucks will be without Michael Carter-Williams (out for the season), O.J. Mayo (out for the season), and Steve Novak (out for the season); while we don't know about Greivis Vasquez, who has been out but hasn't been cleared even though he practiced with the team on Wednesday. The Bucks without their guard advantage means more power to their length with Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, and Greg Monroe getting ready to do battle. They are long and athletic, but way more injured than the Jazz.

3. #UTAatHOU

This is the must-win game for both teams. And the Jazz just need to win it. Houston plays the night before @ Oklahoma City. Utah is idle and waiting. Just win this game. Please. You need this for the season tie-breaker. They are healthy, missing only rookie Sam Dekker. But this is a team Utah has to be able to beat. Now, if Houston is tanking their game against OKC too, in order to focus on UTA, that will be something. James Harden will still shoot 40 free throws regardless.

4. #UTAatOKC

Rest everyone. Give up the L to OKC who -- while they can't catch the Warriors or Spurs -- want to stave off the Clippers. They are perfectly healthy and should have Serge Ibaka back in time for this game. No need to stress a loss here. Be strategic. Be like the Spurs.

5. #UTAatMIN

Unleash the Dogs of War on the Wolves, no one really should be tired at this point as it's the 5th game in eight nights -- but they had the night off. Yes, it's the third game in four, but it's the Wolves. Nikola Pekovic is out. Kevin Garnett is out. Gorgui Dieng is out. Yes, they still have Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, and Shabazz Muhammad -- but they honestly can't be that much of a bother . . . oh wait . . . Karl-Anthony Towns. Okay. So this game isn't going to be easy. But it still should be a win when you are trying to make the playoffs.

I think the Jazz should go 3-2 on this trip. But what do you think?