Schedule turns favorable for the slow-starting Jazz
It's probably too early in the marathonlike NBA season to suggest the Utah Jazz are approaching a succeed-or-succumb portion of their schedule.
Then again ...
Including Wednesday night's game against Toronto, the Jazz play 11 of their next 14 games at usually friendly EnergySolutions Arena.
The upcoming 14 games are spread over the next 27 days, too.
That creates considerable rest-and-recovery time for the Jazz, who have lost nine straight on the second night of back-to-back games, dating back to last season.
Combined with Utah's disappointing 4-6 start, this stretch of games could have a huge impact on the Jazz's fortunes in the coming months.
Do they join other teams near the top of the Western Conference, battling for advantageous playoff position?
Or do they drop a notch or two below the elite teams and spent the rest of the season scrambling just to reach the postseason?
By the time the cozy portion of schedule ends with a home game against Minnesota on Dec. 14, the Jazz ought to have a good idea of where they fit into the big picture.
"It's an important stretch because of how we started the season," Deron Williams said. "We put ourselves in a little hole so we have to try and dig our way out. ...
"Having 11 of 14 [here] helps but, at the same time, we've already lost two at home. ... We have to do a better job of protecting our home court."
Coming into the season, the Jazz were 101-22 at EnergySolutions Arena since 2006-07, including starts of 6-0, 8-1 and 7-0.
This year, Utah has split its first four home games, including losses to Houston and Sacramento.
The Rockets played without Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady.
The Kings played without Kevin Martin.
The Jazz played without much energy or urgency.
"These games ahead, they are very important, especially with our record right now," said Andrei Kirilenko. "We have to get these wins in our pocket.
"It's not going to be easy. But our last few games, we played great basketball. We didn't win the last game, I know. But we played way better and, now, we have to keep moving along this good path."
The Jazz went 2-2 on the road last week, including a 95-93 win at New York and 112-90 victory at Philadelphia.
They are under .500 after 10 games for only the second time in the seven seasons, however.
According to Carlos Boozer, that makes the next month "huge" for the Jazz.
"We're literally dying to win some games and get on a winning streak," he said. "But I think we're really close to turning the corner. The last couple of games we've played well and we'll try to build on that."
Boozer knows constructing the foundation for a successful season depends on playing well at home.
"I've been on some very good teams and I've been on some bad teams," he said. "Speaking from experience, we have a chance to do some good things if we can take care of our home court."
He calls the next month "a chance for us to get back on top of this race."
Boozer is talking about the Western Conference, not just the Northwest Division.
"We're not just trying to get to the playoffs, we want to be one of the top four teams," he explained. "Right now, we dug ourselves a little hole and the only way out is to dig our way out. That's what we're going to try to do."
The Jazz have finished under .500 at home only once in the last 27 years.
All-time, they are 10-3 at home against Toronto, which hasn't won in Salt Lake City since Raja Bell, Carlos Arroyo and Raul Lopez patrolled the Jazz's backcourt.
"In the past we've played fairly well at home and now we have some games in front of our fans," said Ronnie Brewer. "I wouldn't say it's do-or-die, but it would be good to get on a little winning streak right here."
At EnergySolutions Arena
Tipoff » 7 p.m.
TV » FSN Utah
Radio » 1320 AM, 98.7 FM
Records » Jazz 4-6, Raptors 5-5
Season Series » First game
Last Meeting » Jazz, 109-101 (March 8, 2009)
Line » Jazz by 6
About the Jazz » They have beaten Toronto eight straight times, going back to Dec. 22, 2004. ... C Memo Okur averaged 20 points and eight rebounds against the Raptors last season. ... In the last two games, F Carlos Boozer averages 24.5 points and 12 rebounds. He made 20 of his 32 shots.
About the Raptors » They are finishing a four-game swing through the Western Conference ... They average 106.9 points per game. ... C/F Chris Bosh averages 27.7 points. ... Free agent F Hedo Turkoglu averages 14.5 points. ... As a team, they shoot 40.8 percent from the three-point line.
The Jazz's season-by-season home record since they reached the NBA Finals for the first time in 1997: