After getting the shaft from schedule makers the last two seasons, the Utah Jazz’s 2019-20 schedule is one that could aid in their championship aspirations.
Say what you will about the cupcake walk the Utah Jazz enjoyed on the back end of their 2018-19 schedule, the fact still remains that their first-half slate was about as gnarly a stretch as any team could possibly be asked to endure. 16 of the team’s first 24 games (and 21 of 33) were on the road and much of the first half of the season was played against a litany of the league’s elite.
Believe it or not, that was actually viewed by many as an improvement over the previous campaign. Next year, though, with the Jazz looking to make their most postseason noise since John Stockton and Karl Malone led the team to back-to-back Finals in the ’90s, the slate may be a bit more amenbable to setting up the dream run.
At least from a wear and tear standpoint.
The 2019-20 NBA schedule dropped on Monday and while I’ll stop short of saying the Jazz have it easy, their slate for next season is definitely more balanced and a little bit lighter on the sort of hellacious runs that really bruise bodies and egos.
The biggest takeaway for me: the reduction in back-to-backs.
Utah has just 11 back-to-back sets next season, which is tied for the lowest in the league. Better yet: the brunt of them come later in the season, so the Jazz will be able to work in new pieces and new sets, gel as a squad and, essentially, get their act together before they have to deal with major schedule-induced stress.
Part of this is a product of the league trying to reduce the number of back-to-backs league-wide in recent years, but this is the first time the Jazz have really benefited from that initiative in a major way. Also — the league has done away with stretches of four games in five nights across the board.
My other big takeaway from the schedule is that the Jazz really only have two extended road trips. From November 25 to December 2, they’ll play at Milwaukee, at Indiana, at Memphis, then at Toronto and Philadelphia on a back-to-back. The next one is March 2-7, and will be at Cleveland, at New York and at Boston and Detroit on a back-to-back.
They do have a handful of three-game roadies, however.
On the flip side, the Jazz have an awesome home stretch around the All-Star Break. Before the break, on February 12, they’ll play host to the Miami Heat. Upon their return from break, they’ll play five more home games against San Antonio, Houston, Phoenix, Boston and Washington from February 21-28.
Better yet: that six game home stand is sandwiched by winnable games against Dallas on the front end and Cleveland and New York on the back end.
We’ll have more on the schedule throughout the week, but just upon first glance, the Jazz’s slate — while definitely not the league’s easiest schedule — is one that lays out nicely for a team that is both trying to mitigate the growing pains that come with revamping a roster, as well as looking to make a real run at the Larry O’Brien trophy.