Following a three-game homestand last week, the Jazz’s number of games played at Vivint Smart Home Arena and on the road drew even at six apiece.
But the schedule is about to get unbalanced again. Beginning Monday, Utah will start a five-games-in-eight-days road trip that will take the team to Memphis, Dallas, Philadelphia, Boston and Indiana.
It’ll be the second extended trip of the young season for the Jazz (6-6), who have already completed a stretch of four games in eight days (which they finished 3-1).
Indeed, the team plays a slate heavily weighted toward traveling early on, with half of its 41 regular-season road games to be completed by mid-December.
Utah snapped a four-game losing streak and an 0-4 start at Vivint Arena with consecutive wins, against the Mavericks and Celtics, respectively, last week. So this trip will be but the latest test of the Jazz’s defensive resolve and their offensive efficiency.
While coach Quin Snyder said he couldn’t afford to worry about how road-heavy the early-season schedule is, he did acknowledge there are potential benefits to it.
“Last year we started the season and we didn’t win on the road early. Adversity has been our friend, and if the road provides a different challenge, so be it,” Snyder said at Sunday’s practice at the Zions Bank Basketball Campus. “It’s obviously nice being at home, particularly guys seeing their families and that kind of thing. Our guys prepare the same way at home, but I think on the road, really it’s more than what you’re doing even in preparation — it’s the crowd, other teams, the situations you find yourself in. You can’t replicate it.”
This trip begins with a third meeting already this young season against the Memphis Grizzlies, who are 2-0 in the previous matchups. The Jazz recognize the difficulty inherent in facing Memphis three times in the season’s first 13 games.
Of the course, in Dallas on Wednesday, the same challenge will present itself in Game No. 14. At least in contrast to the Grizzlies, though, the Jazz are 2-0 thus far against the young Mavericks.
“Memphis, they wanted it more both games that we played. That’s one of the things we looked at [that] we’ll fix for sure. Dallas, we had two very tough wins, kind of grind-it-out wins. They’re a tough team, they just beat OKC [on Saturday],” said Donovan Mitchell. “Facing an opponent [multiple times] in such a short span of time, they start to remember actions, what happens here, what happens there. As long as we continue to always be ourselves and communicate, we’re good.”
Potentially the most intriguing game of the trip is Friday in Philadelphia. Jazz fans already hold some level of enmity toward the 76ers, given last year’s “Rookie of the Year” battle between Donovan Mitchell and Ben Simmons, who was technically in his second year of the league, as well as the trash talk that All-Star big man Joel Embiid directed at Mitchell following a blocked shot in one meeting.
Furthermore, Philly has seemingly bolstered its roster and its title chances with the weekend acquisition of talented-but-embattled two-way star Jimmy Butler, who forced his way out of Minnesota. Butler sat out the Jazz’s meeting with the Timberwolves due to “general soreness and preventative rest,” so their first look at him this season will come early in Philadelphia’s efforts to integrate him into their system.
“He’s a really good player, and he’s gonna be surrounded by a good team,” noted Dante Exum. “There’s gonna be a lot of adjustments going into it compared to if they didn’t have him. We’ll be ready when we play them.”
It doesn’t get any easier after that, though. On Saturday comes the second half of a back-to-back, with another game against Gordon Hayward and the Celtics. The Jazz won this past Friday’s meeting, 123-115, but the rematch won’t feature thousands of fans booing every move the ex-Jazzman makes. Furthermore, All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving is likely to be back in the lineup.
The trip wraps on Monday, Nov. 19, against Victor Oladipo and the Pacers, who have started the season among the top three teams in the Eastern Conference. Oladipo, who made his first All-Star team last season, is averaging 23.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 4.8 apg, and 1.8 spg going into Sunday’s game vs. Houston.
Snyder said he hopes the players embrace the adversity that inherently stems from games on the road, particularly at this juncture of the season.
“Having them earlier in the year, I think it’s an opportunity for us to get better. I think we will,” he said. “Those are experiences, as a team, that can help hone you and focus you.”
JAZZ AT GRIZZLIES
At FedEx Forum, Memphis, Tenn.
Tipoff • 6 p.m. MT
TV • AT&T SportsNet
Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM
Records • Jazz 6-6; Grizzlies 7-4
Last meeting • Grizzlies, 110-100 (Nov. 2)
About the Jazz • Utah has won two straight games, with home victories over Dallas and Boston. … This is the first of five road games in eight days for the Jazz, who are 4-2 away from Vivint Smart Home Arena thus far. … This will mark the third time in 13 games so far this season the teams have played. The Grizzlies have won both previous matchups.
About the Grizzlies • Mike Conley scored a game-high 28 points in the teams’ previous meeting, with former Jazz guard Shelvin Mack adding 19 off the bench. … The Grizzlies are 5-0 so far this season in games at the FedEx Forum. … They are also on a two-game winning streak, having beaten Denver last Wednesday and Philadelphia on Saturday.