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Donovan Mitchell - San Antonio Spurs - Utah Jazz
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Previewing Jazz Final Eight Game Regular Season Schedule

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) shoots between San Antonio Spurs guard Derrick White (4) and San Antonio Spurs center Jakob Poeltl (25) during an NBA game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. The Jazz lost 104-113. (Courtesy of Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz have eight remaining regular-season games. The team traveled to Orlando Tuesday to begin training camp before resuming the season on July 30. In the latest edition of the Jazz Notes Podcast, KSL Sports Ben Anderson was joined by Deseret News reporter Sarah Todd previewing the Jazz final eight-game schedule.

The Jazz were one of 22 teams selected to complete the NBA season. With a record of 41-23, the team has already guaranteed itself a spot in the Western Conference playoffs. With a 9.5 game lead on the Memphis Grizzlies and an 8.5 game deficit behind the Los Angeles Lakers, the Jazz can climb no higher than second and fall no further than seventh in the Western Conference standings.

The Jazz have the fifth easiest remaining schedule of all Western Conference teams. A full breakdown of the strength of the Jazz schedule compared to other Western Conference teams can be found here.

Talking to Jazz Players

Over the past week, the Jazz have made roster players and coaches available to the media. Players have been undergoing individual workouts and testing as they prepared to head to Orlando. On the latest episode of the Jazz Notes Podcast, Todd and Anderson discussed what they’d learned from talking to the Jazz players, and how they view the remaining schedule.

Both Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert spoke about their relationship this week. Both players admitted the relationship wasn’t flawless, but they were prepared to move forward in order to win basketball games.

“I think that Donovan shared that a lot of basketball players can feel throughout an NBA season,” Todd said. “Especially if there’s ever any controversy from within a locker room. And it’s that they don’t owe the media anything, especially when it’s about personal stuff.”

Mitchell said he didn’t feel obligated to address the issues publicly just to provide the media with more locker room fodder.

Previewing Jazz Schedule

New Orleans Pelicans

Todd and Anderson then moved to preview the Jazz eight remaining games. The Jazz sit 1.5 games back of the Denver Nuggets for the West’s third-seed. They sit one game ahead of both the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets in the fourth seed.

The Jazz reopen the NBA season on July 30 against the New Orleans Pelicans.

“There are so many things about this first game,” Todd said about the Pelicans. “Not only are the Jazz the first team to play in Orlando, but it’s also fitting because they were the team that was at the center of the NBA shutting down.”

Gobert’s positive coronavirus test on March 11 led to the near-immediate suspension of the NBA season. Earlier this season, the Jazz and Pelicans have been involved in two controversial finishes. First, Gobert blocked a Brandon Ingram layup to preserve a Jazz victory. The block was later ruled to have been a foul by NBA officials in the Last Two Minute report.

The Jazz nearly stole another game in New Orleans, but Ingram’s scoring brilliance outlasted the Jazz in overtime.

Oklahoma City Thunder

In what Todd called “The game that never happened,” the Jazz get to face the Thunder for the first time since the season was suspended in Oklahoma City.

“The Jazz have had good matchups with the Thunder so far this season,” Anderson said. “And the Thunder are right behind the Jazz in the playoff standings. They’re the fifth-seed the Jazz are the fourth-seed. So this is a very crucial game for the Jazz and really a potential preview of who the Jazz are going to play in the first round of the playoffs.”

Denver Nuggets

The Jazz trail the Nuggets by 1.5 games in the playoff standings. Denver has gotten the better of the Jazz in their last two meetings this season. However, Nuggets center Nikola Jokic has been stuck in Serbia after testing positive for the coronavirus.

“They have an insanely tough schedule in Orlando,” Todd said of the Nuggets remaining eight games. Denver has the second-toughest schedule remaining of any Western Conference team. “It’s very feasible they could drop down and we could see the Thunder or the Rockets or the Jazz move up to that third seed. So that middle of the pack in the Western Conference, it’s gonna be a really interesting positional play.”

Los Angeles Lakers

The Jazz face the Lakers in their third game in Orlando. The Lakers own the top seed in the West and could have their playoff seeding set by the time they face the Jazz.

“This is going to be the first meaningful competitive games that they’ve played in like four and a half months at that point,” Todd said of the Lakers return. “I think that we probably are going to see limited minutes from some of the veterans in these games just because they are going to need time to warm up.”

The Lakers may prefer to rest forward LeBron James as much as possible during the final stretch of the regular season to preserve his health during the postseason.

Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies are fighting for their playoff lives. Memphis owns the eighth-seed in the Western Conference but will have to face a play-in game against the ninth-seed if they finish the season withing four games of one another.  Currently, Memphis owns a 3.5 game lead over the Portland Trail Blazers.

“They’ve given the Jazz trouble so far this season,” Anderson said of the Grizzlies. “Ja Morant is a problem. He has been for the Jazz so far this season. And when the Jazz did beat Memphis earlier this year in Memphis, Bojan Bogdanovic went crazy in the third quarter. They don’t have his skills anymore.”

Bogdanovic will miss the remainder of the NBA season after undergoing surgery on his wrist during the league’s hiatus.

San Antonio Spurs

The Jazz face the Spurs in games five and eight in Orlando. The Spurs are the least talented roster the Jazz will play during their return. However, Todd warns that San Antonio might be more difficult than some would expect.

“The Spurs beat the Jazz twice this year in the game when they played them,” Todd recalled. “So it’s their easiest game on the schedule and they play them twice. But they haven’t been able to beat them yet this year. And although LaMarcus Aldridge won’t be there, DeMar DeRozan is the guy that kind of went after them.”

Denver Nuggets

Potentially the most crucial game for the Jazz down the stretch will come against the Nuggets. The Jazz could potentially overcome Denver with a victory, or cement their final seeding behind the Nuggets with a loss.

“They’re going to be looking at this as a must-win,” Todd said of the Nuggets. “They’re going to be coming out hard for this one. This is going to be a game that if the Jazz are in the fourth-seed at that point and Nuggets are in the third-seed that’s gonna be huge.”

Dallas Mavericks

Though it’s unlikely, the Jazz could be seeing a preview of their first-round playoff opponent in their second to last game of the regular season. The Mavericks own the seventh-seed but could climb up into a meeting with the Jazz. Anderson mentioned how the two teams meeting in Orlando could be a battle of strengths for the two franchises.

“The Jazz are a really good road team this year. They’re 20-13. Only two teams have more road wins in the jazz this year. Those are the Dallas Mavericks, coincidentally, who were weirdly good on the road this year. They were 21-12. And of course, the Lakers who have 28 road wins.”

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