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Monson: 50 games in, the Jazz aren't far off the pace of great Jazz teams of the past

Published February 3, 2017 10:34 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Jazz stand at 31-19 with 32 games left in their regular season.

And the intriguing questions are: How many of those will they win and where will that leave them heading into the playoffs? If they can edge past the Clippers, which is increasingly likely, they'll finish fourth in the West and secure home-court advantage in the first round of the postseason. Houston, in the third spot, is more of a long shot to catch, presently four games ahead at 36-16.

Trailing the Jazz are Memphis, 1.5 games back, and Oklahoma City, three games behind.

The Jazz have had the advantage of playing 27 home games to this point, winning 18 of those. They've only played 23 on the road, going 13-10. So that is a hill to climb.

Looking ahead, the schedule can be broken down a few different — admittedly crude, indeterminate — ways, beginning with that road-home challenge. Of their remaining games, 14 will be in the friendly confines of Vivint Smart Home Arena, 18 will be elsewhere. At their current winning rate, the Jazz would take about nine of their home games and 10 of their roadies, which would put them at 50 wins and 32 losses.

There naturally are more variables than just those.

If the schedule were to be examined by wins achieved and losses suffered against opponents according to their records as of Thursday morning, the Jazz's outlook would look a bit different.

The teams left with records worse than the Jazz's are, in order, Charlotte (23-26), Atlanta (28-21), New Orleans (19-31), Dallas (19-30), Portland (22-28), Milwaukee (21-27), Washington (28-20), Oklahoma City (28-22), Minnesota (19-30), Brooklyn (9-40), Sacramento (19-30), New Orleans, OKC, Detroit (22-27), Chicago (24-25), Indiana (26-22), and New York (22-29).

The remaining teams with better records are, in order, Boston (31-18), the Clippers (31-18), Houston, Clippers, Cleveland (33-15), Clippers, San Antonio (37-11), Golden State (41-7) and San Antonio.

So if teams are only as good as their record says they are, and the Jazz were to beat the teams they're better than, in that vacuum, they would finish the season by winning 23 games and losing nine. That would place them at 54-28.

Lay the road-home challenge over the good-as-their-record-says-they-are component and it gets a whole lot more complicated. Not to mention the back-to-back factors and any road weariness that may take hold. Their longest remaining road trip is four games, with two separate three-gamers mixed in.

The Jazz have 10 games remaining against teams over which they hold series advantages to date, 10 games against teams which hold series edges over them and seven games against teams with which the series is tied.

All of which is fun to consider and hash over, none of which means a whole lot of anything. Absolute conclusions are in short supply. As is evident, there's no statistical or probability expertise here, just the joyful throwing around of numbers for grins and giggles — and guesses.

Looking back at the Jazz's history over their final 32 games, they've had substantial swings in success rates, although much of it has been promising. They finished 15-17 last season. They were 21-11 the year before. In 2011-12, the last time the Jazz made the playoffs, they finished 20-12. In their Finals years, the Jazz wrapped those seasons with remarkable 28-4 and 27-5 runs.

That's good news and bad.

If the Jazz get healthy enough and organize themselves well enough to get on a hefty roll and think big and dream big and play big, those last couple of numbers are records for which to shoot. The 2016-17 Jazz are not the 1996-97 or 1997-98 Jazz, but if they were to get all heady like that, they would complete this regular season with a 59-23 or 58-24 mark.

Nobody's counting on that.

On the other hand, during those great seasons, when the Jazz actually ended up with final records of 64-18 and 62-20, their marks at 50 games played weren't thaaaaaaat much better than what the Jazz currently have posted.

The reality this time likely will fall well south of what John Stockton and Karl Malone got done in those exceptional years, but … who really knows? The Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert Jazz's work is their own to do. It's left to them to finish it as they will. If they go as they did two years ago, they'd end up at 52-30.

There's only this certainty within the uncertainty: If they handle their business all proper between now and April 12, whatever happens thereafter will be much more to their advantage, with the noise in the building on more nights than not, at least in that first round, pushing them on their way over playoff ground that will be new to most of them.

GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM. Twitter: @GordonMonson.






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