UTAH JAZZ

Utah Jazz: NBA’s ‘Road Warriors’ In First Half Of Season

Jan 7, 2019, 9:15 PM
Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz celebrates late in the game with Ricky Rubio #3 while playing...
Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz celebrates late in the game with Ricky Rubio #3 while playing the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena on January 05, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. Utah won the game 110-105. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

MILWAUKEE, Wis. – Road Warriors. The moniker given to the second movie of the Mad Max film series perfectly describes the 2018-19 Utah Jazz through the halfway mark of the season.

In Mad Max 2, the protagonist – Mad Max, played by Mel Gibson – travels a post-apocalyptic Australian outback with his trusty sidekick scavenging for supplies – ammo, fuel, food, any resources he can find in a desolate landscape.

The Utah Jazz, on the other hand, have traveled the country battling on the court while racking up frequent flyer points in trips to Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Toronto, Mexico City, Oklahoma City, etc., etc. If there’s an airport near an NBA city, chances are they’ve flown into it.

Through 41 games, the Jazz have played in 23 different venues, traveled before 35/41 games and racked up 33,928 miles.

They traveled before 13 straight games from November 12 to December 4. If you extend that date to December 22, they traveled before 21/22 games and are the only team in the NBA to travel 10,000+ miles in back-to-back months at any point this season.

For most teams, the jet lag would have caught up, but the Jazz currently sit at 12-13 on the road after their four-game road trip wrapped up in Milwaukee – tied for the second most road wins in the league behind Toronto.

Utah’s 25 road games are the most in the NBA at this point of the season of the eight teams in front of the Jazz in the Western Conference standings, only four have played 20 or more road games led by the Thunder who have 21 road games played with a 12-9 record – putting them in third place in the Western Conference.

Fortunately for the Jazz, the back half of the schedule features 25 home games and just one 4-game road stretch after enduring three road trips that lasted four games or more.

Not only are the Jazz traveling, they’re playing the best teams in the league. The first half of the Jazz schedule has featured a gauntlet. Through 41 games, the Jazz have played the third most difficult schedule in the league, according to Basketball Reference.

Of the eight Western Conference teams that are on track to earn a playoff spot, only one – the Portland Trail Blazers – have played a harder schedule than the Jazz. Only one other team – the Houston Rockets – have a top five strength of schedule.

While the team struggled early, the Jazz have turned the corner, led by the elite defense that carried the Jazz in the 2017-18 season. They have continued to frustrate opponents, posting a 106.3 defensive rating – the fifth best in the league.

While the expectations were sky-high entering the season, sitting just one game below .500 through this behemoth of a schedule should ease Jazz fans’ worries.

With a 6-4 record in their last 10 games, the Jazz have begun to resemble last year’s squad, which made a run in the back half of their schedule.

The final months of 2019 are setting up for a climactic final stretch where the Jazz are poised to make plenty of noise while clawing their way up the Western Conference standings.

Fortunately for them, their opponents are just NBA players, not gasoline-seeking wasteland-warriors.

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Utah Jazz: NBA’s ‘Road Warriors’ In First Half Of Season