The time has come.
Ever since the NBA schedule was released in September 2021, Utah’s road trip towards the end of the season was primarily viewed as a stretch that will either make or break the Jazz. In March and with the six-game swing up next, that’s precisely the scenario Utah finds itself in.
Locked in a fierce battle for playoff positioning, the Jazz must now navigate a six-game in 10-day stretch where they will play in three different time zones, beginning in New York and ending in Los Angeles. As if that wasn’t hard enough, five of the six games will come against teams currently in the playoff picture.
“I was tired of it.”
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) March 17, 2022
1.) @ New York Knicks / Sunday, March 20
2.) @ Brooklyn Nets / Monday, March 21
3.) @ Boston Celtics / Wednesday, March 23
4.) @ Charlotte Hornets / Friday, March 25
5.) @ Dallas Mavericks / Sunday, March 27
6.) @ Los Angeles Clippers / Tuesday, March 29
The good news is that the Jazz have picked a perfect time to play their best basketball of the season.
After the disastrous month of January, the Jazz are 14-5 since the calendar flipped to February — winning in many ways that prove how deep and versatile this team truly is.
“We’ve said it all season, we don’t want to peak too early,” head coach Quin Snyder said. “We want to make sure that we are going up and playing our best basketball at the right time. I feel like we are doing better being more consistent and getting to where we want to be.”
Interestingly enough, this major turnaround has come when the Jazz are still struggling to be fully healthy.
Right when it looked they were good to go, Bojan Bogdanovic went down with a strained left calf. While the injury isn’t considered severe, Utah’s second-leading scorer has missed the past three games and has already been ruled out for Sunday’s showdown with the Knicks.
“It’s hard to predict exactly how long it takes, whether it’s a game, two games, three games,” Snyder said regarding Bogdanovic’s time frame. “I know how he is. … He’ll want to be out there soon as he can.”
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) March 10, 2022
The good news is that Utah is deeper than they’ve ever been, and it’s shown in back-to-back wins over Chicago and LA in their past two games.
Rookie Jared Butler had his best game of the season on Friday against the Clippers, dropping 21 points and seven assists in the massive victory.
Newcomer Nickeil Alexander-Walker, in a much more prominent role due to the injuries, is averaging 14.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 2.5 steals on 45.5% shooting from beyond the arc.
“Nickeil’s got good vision, and he’s got size, and he can pass with either hand,” Snyder said. “I think his willingness to pass with our group is something that I think he’s enjoying. If you asked him, I think he likes to pass.”
goodnight, jazz twitter
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) March 19, 2022
That sort of depth will be heavily relied upon as Snyder and the Jazz have made it clear all season that they value health over victories in the season. Utah is not willing to play its starters 40 minutes a game in the regular season just to chase a seed — they’d rather be healthy entering the playoffs instead of tired and rundown.
With just 12 games remaining for the Jazz, they’re slowly inching forward to that No. 4 seed, doing precisely as Rudy Gobert says and taking it “one game at a time.”