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How Have Jazz Fared In Measuring Stick Games This Season?

Utah Jazz center Derrick Favors (15) reaches for the ball in front of Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) and Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges (25) during a preseason NBA game at the Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Though the Utah Jazz own the best record in the NBA at 38-12, they haven’t fared particularly well in what could be described as measuring stick games. The Jazz have another chance to prove themselves against one of the best teams in the NBA when they face the Phoenix Suns tonight.

Of the Jazz 12 losses this season, five have come against teams with the six best records in the NBA. While the Jazz have a 7-5 record against these opponents, some of the team’s victories wins have been deceptive.

Let’s look back at how the Jazz have fared this year against the best teams in the NBA.

Phoenix Suns: 0-1

The Jazz lost their New Year’s Eve matchup with the Suns 106-95. This loss came early in the season before the Jazz had elevated their play to earn the best record in the NBA, but the same can be said of the Suns.

Bojan Bogdanovic struggled mightily in the loss, scoring just three points on 0-5 shooting, while the Jazz fell for the second consecutive game at home. The Jazz haven’t lost at home since, but Phoenix earned a valuable victory that could prove to determine home-court advantage if the two teams have even records at the end of the season.

Brooklyn Nets: 1-1

The Jazz season series against the Brooklyn Nets has taught us nearly nothing about the two teams. Without Kevin Durant in the lineup, the Jazz got crushed in Brooklyn 130-96, suffering their most lopsided loss of the season.

The loss came just weeks before the Nets shipped out a series of assets to acquire James Harden from the Houston Rockets, having since become one of the most dominant teams in the NBA.

However, when the Nets traveled to Utah to finish the series in March, Irving, Harden, and Kevin Durant all sat out the game. The Jazz beat the Nets 118-88 but learned nothing in the process.

Philadelphia 76ers: 1-1

The Jazz two games against the Philadephia 76ers have been perhaps the best measuring sticks of the season, and even these games have had serious flaws.

In the Jazz February 15 home win, the 76ers traveled to Utah without MVP candidate Joel Embiid. The Jazz meanwhile suited up with Mike Conley who was missing his fifth consecutive game with a hamstring injury.

In March, the Jazz lost to the 76ers in overtime 131-123 in the last game of the first half of the regular season, but despite full rosters, it wasn’t without its controversies. After the game, Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert went on profanity-laced tirades against the officiating in the fourth quarter and overtime leading to Mitchell getting ejected, and both players getting fined.

However, despite the officiating, the Jazz narrow loss was one of the best games of the season to reflect upon when examining how the team can perform on the road against the league’s best teams.

Los Angeles Clippers: 2-1

The Jazz completed their season series with the Los Angeles Clippers with a winning record, handing them the tie-breaker if the two teams were to finish the season with identical records.

In the first meeting of the season, the Jazz beat LA 106-100 on the second night of back-to-back games after falling to the Suns the night before. The Clippers were without Marcus Morris but considering the circumstances having played the night before, this was a good measuring stick win for the Jazz.

On February 17, the Jazz beat the Clippers again to clinch the season series, though LA was playing without Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Luke Kennard.

Two nights later, the Jazz lost to the Clippers who welcomed back their full roster, while the Jazz tried to incorporate Conley who had missed the last six games with his injured hamstring. Playing a team twice on two nights, the second coming after which they rested all of their star players probably isn’t the most accurate example of how the teams would look against one another in a more traditional scenario, leaving this measuring stick game more questionable than others.

Denver Nuggets: 1-1

The Jazz have split two road games against the Nuggets in what can be considered relatively accurate measuring stick games, though Denver’s roster has since changed.

On January 17, the Jazz went into Ball Arena and won 109-95 fueled by 23 points off the bench from Jordan Clarkson. Just two weeks later, the Jazz lost to Denver 128-117 after Mitchell’s first game back from a two-game absence after suffering a concussion earlier in the week.

The Nuggets hit 15-17 threes in the first half building an insurmountable 25 point lead as the Jazz league-best 11 games win streak was snapped on the road in Denver.

Though both teams were healthy in these matchups, the Nuggets have since added forward Aaron Gordon to the rotation. How these two teams’ matchup won’t be known until their rubber match meeting on May 7.

Milwaukee Bucks: 2-0

If Jazz fans want to feel optimistic about the team going forward, looking back at the team’s two wins against the Milwaukee Bucks might give them the most hope.

After losing back-to-back games to the Nets and New York Knicks, the Jazz answered with an impressive 131-118 victory over Milwaukee. Both teams were near full health, but the Jazz 25 made threes carried them to a win which jumpstarted the team’s 11-game win streak.

On February 12, the Jazz swept the season series with the Bucks 129-115, though both teams were playing without their starting point guards. Four Jazz players scored at least 25 points, setting a team record en route to victory.

What Have We Learned?

Reflecting on the season so far, a murky picture emerges on how the Jazz have played against the best teams in the NBA.

In true measuring stick games where the Jazz and their opponents are fully healthy, the team is evenly split 4-4.

With one game left against the Nuggets this season and two left against the Suns including tonight’s matchup, the Jazz have valuable opportunities to prove themselves against the best teams in the NBA.

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