With the Jazz’s schedule released last week, we inch further toward the long-awaited promise of real, tangible NBA basketball. Now that we’ve got the layout for the season, SCH’s panel gives their various assessments for the upcoming 82 games.
1. Which game are you most excited for? Why?
Dan Clayton: Oh man, where do I start? It’s August, so they all sound sublime right now. I guess I’ll pick October 30, because it looks like that’s the first one I’ll be attending. I’m actually somewhat excited that eight of the first 10 will be on the road, but largely winnable ones.
Ben Dowsett: That home opener will be a madhouse if the Jazz come into it already at 3-0 or probably even 2-1, but I’ve gotta go with March 14 at home for King James and the Cavs. I’ve made no secret of my LeBron fandom over the years, and will relish every remaining chance I get to see him live and up close.
Dakota Schmidt: The November 7 matchup against Memphis interests me the most for two reasons: to see Gobert and Gasol battle each other and also because it’s the start of a brutal string of games where the Jazz are going against playoff squads until the end of the month.
Clark Schmutz: Wednesday, October 28 at Detroit. Like the Jazz, I’m taking this season one game at a time. But seriously, I’m just looking most forward to the season starting.
Laura Thompson: While it’s tempting to say the OKC game, I’m going with November 7 against Memphis. This is when we’ll start to see what the Jazz can do this year. The Jazz will have five easy-ish games under their belt with this new starting lineup, and this will be their first real test against a legitimately good team. How will they respond?
2. Which game are you least excited for? Why?
Dan Clayton: If you look at my answer to #1, I’m pretty excited for all 82. I guess I’m not thrilled about the circus that’s going to surround every OKC-Utah game, starting with the 11/23 showdown in Utah.
Ben Dowsett: I’ll stick to home games, and go January 27 against Charlotte. It’ll be the teams’ second matchup in 10 days, and I seriously just could not possibly care less about the Charlotte Horncats. See? I’m still making lame, year-old puns about their name. They compel me in exactly zero ways.
Dakota Schmidt: While I really shouldn’t say this, since it’s a season debut, it has to be the opener against Detroit. Utah starting the season on the road against a relative non-factor is pretty disappointing.
Clark Schmutz: December 28: 76ers at the Jazz. I may just ignore that one and spend an evening with family and my new Christmas toys. Should be an easy “W.”
Laura Thompson: The January 10 game against the Lakers in LA at Staples. I’m bitter they’re playing a Sunday game when they’re in my neck of the woods. Boo. I want to be there in person when the Jazz crush the Kobes. Instead, I’ll have to wait for April 13 for what will possibly be Kobe’s last game.
3. What will the Jazz’s longest win streak be?
Dan Clayton: Six. Double-digit streaks happen, on average, 6.3 times per year over the last decade; the Jazz won’t be one of the best six teams. Think of it this way: even if you find a stretch where the Jazz are 65-35 favorites for six straight, their probability of winning all six is 7.5 percent. So six is hopeful and realistic, and would match last year’s best run.
Ben Dowsett: Ever the optimist, I’ll say eight games. Starting January 10, the Jazz go MIA-@LAL-@POR-SAC-LAL-@CHA-@NYK-@BRK-@WSH — I’m betting they lose one of the bookends and win the rest even despite all the road games. And shoot, they go DET-CHA-MIN-CHI-DEN-MIL right after Washington, all at home, all beatable teams. Could be a nice stretch, streak or no.
Dakota Schmidt: Between January 9 through February 1 there’s a 12-game stretch where they face off against only three playoff teams (Chicago, Washington Brooklyn). While it’s impossible to predict, I think that the Jazz can wrangle off a six or seven game winning streak.
Clark Schmutz: I’m going to go out on a limb and say the Jazz start the season 6-0. They will win six games in a row twice this season though.
Laura Thompson: Six wins, though the optimist in me says possibly eight. Their six-game homestand starting Jan 25 contains all winnable games, with the games after that stretch being tricky: at Phoenix on the second night of a back-to-back, followed by a road game against Dallas before playing a playoff team in New Orleans. I’d better stick with six.
4. What will the Jazz’s longest losing streak be?
Dan Clayton: Not nine (last year’s longest). Let’s say four.
Ben Dowsett: I’ll say five, with a particular eye to a slate starting November 15 that goes @ATL-TOR-@DAL-OKC-@LAC-NOP-GSW. There are winnable games in there, but also a ton of travel, this on the heels of eight of their first 10 games of the season on the road. The Jazz’s legs will be tested early.
Dakota Schmidt: I have to go back to that stretch of games that start on November 7. From then until November 30, Utah will go against Golden State, New Orleans, OKC, Toronto, Atlanta and Brooklyn. Can definitely see the team losing around four or five games in a row during that stretch.
Clark Schmutz: Four games. They will go 0-4 during a four-game road trip to Boston, Toronto, Memphis and New Orleans.
Laura Thompson: Five. Four games in six days is better than four games in five, but just barely. Two back-to-backs against Memphis and New Orleans, both on the road (with two road games right before), followed by a back-to-back against Atlanta (home) and Golden State (away) before traveling back to Salt Lake City to play Washington. That’s just a brutal stretch.
5. Which five-game stretch will be the most important to the Jazz this upcoming season?
Dan Clayton: I’m a big believer in the psychology of a good/bad start, so that first 8-of-10 on the road stretch will be a tough test. But I’ll actually go with February 5 through February 19. After playing an up-and-coming Milwaukee team at home, they go on a three-game trip to visit three teams that will be on the WC playoff bubble with them, all while heading into the break. Then they come back and host Boston, another team on the up, on national TV. Legitimacy — and maybe postseason — on the line.
Ben Dowsett: It’s cliche, but I’m going with either the first five or the last five. The first five are all very winnable games, and the Jazz could get their hype train going full steam if they come out of the gate 4-1 or 5-0. The final five are a mixed bag, but I just get a feeling they’ll be much more important this year than the last couple seasons.
Dakota Schmidt: There’s a five-game stretch between February 5th to 19th that’s definitely important. During that span, the team will go against teams that are comparable to the Jazz: Milwaukee, Phoenix, Dallas, New Orleans and Boston. Not only is this right around the All-Star Game and the trade deadline, but it should tell us how they really stack up against teams that are right at their level.
Clark Schmutz: The last five games leading into the All-Star break. The team will have to maintain focus leading into the time off and they will be playing NO, DAL, and PHX back to back to back. Should be teams fighting with the Jazz for the last playoff spots.
Laura Thompson: The March 4-March 11 stretch with Memphis, New Orleans, Atlanta, Golden State, and Washington. How will the Jazz respond to a brutal stretch against tough teams? Even with a gimme here or there after — Sacramento, Phoenix — the Jazz still have Cleveland, Chicago, Milwaukee (East playoff teams, but playoff teams nonetheless), Houston, and OKC following that tough stretch. Will they fight tough? Be resilient?