After a poor start to the month of December and with several grueling games ahead, it’s looking more and more like the Utah Jazz may not see another victory until 2018.
From the moment the 2017-18 NBA schedule was released, one of the main things that jumped out at Utah Jazz fans was the month of December. Between a road-heavy schedule that included a daunting six-game road trip and a crazy number of tough opponents, the 31-day stretch seemed like it would be a gauntlet for the Jazz that would likely put quite a damper on their holidays.
However, coming into the month, the Jazz were feeling quite good. They won four straight games to close out November, then went on to earn an electrifying come-from-behind win over the New Orleans Pelicans and dropped a 47-point hammer win over the Washington Wizards the following game to make it six straight.
The Jazz looked rejuvenated and, quite frankly, the overwhelming sentiment coming out of Jazz Nation was that perhaps the daunting month of December wouldn’t end up being as bad as we thought.
Boy, were we wrong.
Since that six-game winning streak, the Utah Jazz have taken an absolute nosedive once again, reverting to the poor play they exhibited for most of the month of November that saw them go 3-8 prior to the four consecutive wins to close out the month. Some of those losses were expected, such as the defeat at the hands of the red hot Houston Rockets, but others such as the blown lead to the Oklahoma City Thunder or the failure to compete against the Milwaukee Bucks were absolutely disappointing.
But even those losses couldn’t hold a candle to what happened last night. The Utah Jazz were facing by far their easiest opponent of the month in the Chicago Bulls who had won just six games coming into the contest. Not only that, but the Jazz were coming into the game with three days off to prepare, plan and adjust, and their former leading scorer Rodney Hood (he was just surpassed in that category by Donovan Mitchell last night) was back in action.
It seemed like the perfect combination for the Jazz to right the ship and get back on top of their game. After all, throughout his career in Utah, Quin Snyder has been excellent at adjusting, adapting and getting the most out of his personnel, therefore, following a three-day break it was largely expected that he would have his Jazz team ready to go and at the very least earn a win over the middling Bulls.
But unfortunately such wasn’t the case. In perhaps the most dismal loss of the season, the Jazz fell absolutely flat as they were narrowly topped by the Chicago Bulls by a score of 103-100. The Jazz lacked energy, looked unfocused and were simply outplayed by Chicago from the opening tip.
And the scary thing is that, once again, Wednesday’s contest was supposed to be the easiest of the month for the Jazz. If that’s the case and it still resulted in an L, what does that mean for the rest of December?
Let’s take a quick reminder look at who the Jazz have left during the remainder of the month:
- 12/15 at Boston
- 12/16 at Cleveland
- 12/18 at Houston
- 12/20 at Oklahoma City
- 12/21 vs. San Antonio
- 12/23 vs. Oklahoma City
- 12/26 at Denver
- 12/27 at Golden State
- 12/30 vs. Cleveland
I did this exercise for the entire month of December during Utah’s win streak and was feeling quite optimistic about Utah’s chances as I projected them to go 6-9 if things went bad and 8-7 if things went surprisingly well. Unfortunately, I didn’t plan for if things were to go exceptionally horrible… And that’s about where we’re at right now.
Thanks to the victories over New Orleans and Washington, the Jazz have two wins so far this month. But their recent rut currently has them at 2-4 in December. Therefore, for them to even reach my 6-9 “bad” mark, they’d have to win four more games. Look at the list above and tell me if with how the Jazz are playing right now, you think there’s any way they’ll win four of those contests. As much as I hate to say it, I sure don’t.
In fact, I’d say Utah is in deep trouble of going winless for the remainder of the month. Those teams are not only good, but all of them save the Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets are top-3 teams in their conference. Meanwhile, Denver has continued to play well in spite of some key injuries and the Thunder are slowly but surely starting to improve as they’ve leapfrogged the Jazz for the eighth seed in the West and most recently put an end to the red hot Indiana Pacers’ four-game winning streak.
In other words, none of these teams are squads to be trifled with. And the fact that six of these nine contests will be on the road where Utah has been absolutely horrible makes things even worse. The Jazz are currently 2-10 in road games which is tied with the Dallas Mavericks for the worst in the Western Conference. That is absolutely horrible. It’s seemed no matter who the opponent, the Jazz just can’t get up and compete away from Vivint Smart Home Arena.
Thus, considering that they’re losing road games to weak opponents, playing on the road against Boston, Cleveland, Houston, OKC, Denver and Golden State sounds like a death knell.
I hate to say it, but when taking all of this into consideration, it’s looking more and more like there’s a good chance that the Jazz won’t win a game for the rest of the month. The ones that I would say appear the most winnable are the two bouts against OKC, the game in Denver and the contest against Cleveland at the end of the month, only due to LeBron’s recent struggles in SLC where he’s lost six straight including to some less than formidable Jazz squads.
However, OKC has played better of late, just barely beat the Jazz and the first of the two contests is of course on the road where Utah has been awful. Perhaps the Jazz get things figured out enough to top the Thunder at home on the 23rd, but they have a lot of adjustments to make if they’re going to be able to do that.
Meanwhile, Utah is currently 2-0 against Denver on the season including a blowout victory in their most recent meeting, but again this contest will take place on the road in a notoriously tough Pepsi Center and with it being played the day after Christmas, I wouldn’t be all that surprised to see a bit of a holiday hangover for the Jazz.
Last of all, as much as we’d all like to believe that LeBron truly is cursed when playing in Utah, his long losing streak seems bound to be snapped at any moment and considering how poor the Jazz have played of late and how hot the Cavs have been, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if it finally happened this year.
Therefore, while there’s a chance the Jazz win possibly three more games this month, there’s also a pretty strong argument to be had that they’ll end up going winless for the rest of December. Doing so would put them at 2-13 for the month and would drop their overall record to 13-24, which for reference is a win percentage of .351 which would currently put Utah at 11th in the West. Last year it would have put them at 13th at the season’s end.
Being 11 games under .500 would be a scary spot to be in. Yes, January gets significantly easier, but some holes can be too deep to climb back from. Maybe the Jazz make a change or get hot and they are able to improve their December record up to about five wins or so, but unfortunately from where we’re sitting right now, it wouldn’t surprise me all that much to see them enter the new year at that abysmal 13-24 mark that I mentioned.
If such is the case, they’ll face an uphill battle if they hope to climb their way back into the playoffs. We all presumed that the Jazz would have to play extremely well prior to the month of December in order to balance things out and stay afloat heading into January. Unfortunately, they dropped several winnable games during the months of October and November as well, and those are certainly coming back to haunt the Jazz now.
There’s no sugar-coating it, Utah’s outlook is currently bleak and they may not win a game until 2018. That’s a scary thing to think about, but on the bright side, at least the Jazz have Donovan Mitchell – the one player who seems to be giving this team some hope in what may turn out to be a disappointing year but that will hopefully give way to an exhilarating future.
And despite the frustrations that this month and this season may bring, that’s certainly better than having nothing to hang our hats on at all.