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Why the Jazz’s final stretch of the schedule is so challenging — and intriguing

During that 15-day stretch, Utah will face at least six teams jockeying for playoff seedings

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Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson dribbles around Clippers guard Terance Mann during NBA playoffs in Salt Lake City.

Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) dribbles around teammate Bojan Bogdanovic and LA Clippers guard Terance Mann (14) during Game 5 of their NBA playoff series in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. Heading into the 2022 playoffs, the Jazz will be coming off playing a murderer’s row of opponents.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

This article was first published as the Jazz Insiders newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each Thursday.

The NBA released the full 2021-22 season schedule for all teams last Friday and after looking it over it seems like the most interesting part of the schedule for the Utah Jazz might be the final eight games of the season.

Over a 15-day stretch from March 27 to April 10 the Jazz will play eight games, at least six of which will be against playoff contending teams.

With one day in between each contest the Jazz will face the Dallas Mavericks, L.A. Clippers, L.A. Lakers and Golden State Warriors. The Jazz will then have two days of rest before playing a home-based back-to-back set against the Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder. Finally the Jazz will wrap up the season against the Phoenix Suns on April 6 at home and the Portland Trail Blazers on April 8 on the road.

Last season the Jazz fought tooth and nail to keep the No. 1 seed with the league’s best regular-season record. But seeding might not be the most important thing this season. The decision between health and seeding is one that every playoff team has to make, which makes that final stretch of the season all the more interesting for the Jazz.

It’s not just about what the Jazz choose to do, but also what the other teams decide. That eight-game stretch could end up being a murderer’s row of the Western Conference’s best teams all jockeying for a higher seed. That stretch could also end up being a time when the West’s best teams decide to rest their top players in preparation for the postseason.

The Jazz need to make tough decisions about how they want to handle the final stretch of the season as far as rest and wins are concerned. And, no matter what the other teams decide or what the Jazz decide, that stretch could end up having major playoff implications once everything is said and done.

New with the Jazz

Stat of the week

The Utah Jazz will open the 2021-22 season against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Oct. 20, marking the seventh time the Jazz and Thunder have played the first game of the season against each other.

This week on ‘Unsalvageable’

Check out “Unsalvageable: A Utah Jazz Podcast,” hosted by Deseret News Utah Jazz beat reporter Sarah Todd and lifelong Jazz fan Greg Foster (no, not that Greg Foster). This week, there are two new episodes: One breaking down all the Jazz’s free agency moves and a second one reviewing the Jazz’s Summer League performance and the 2021-22 schedule.

New episodes come out every Wednesday. You can listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast and anywhere else you stream podcasts.

Special edition mailbag

I appreciate that what seems like a typo in this question actually points to how I’ll answer it. Will the Jazz win 55+ games? I’m not sure. Can they Jazz win 55+ games? I think so.

The Jazz won 52 games in the 72-game 2020-21 season. I think the Jazz are going to be a better team this year and with the return of the 82-game schedule, there’s no reason to think that they aren’t capable of hitting that 55-win threshold.

But, will they? That depends on exactly the topic of this week’s newsletter. The Jazz were injured, banged up and fatigued going into last season’s playoffs. Winning the No. 1 seed was great, but is it worth flaming out in the second round of the postseason? I don’t think so.

So if the Jazz choose to rest some of their more veteran players and sacrifice a few wins along the way in order to deliver a healthy roster to the post season they might not reach 55 or even 50 wins.

From the archives

Extra points

  • Where do the Jazz rank in the Western Conference? (The Athletic)
  • Damian Lillard plays all 40 minutes of Weber State alumni game (Salt Lake Tribune)
  • Best career game from each new Jazz player (KSL Sports)

Around the league

NBA players union to help renovate court at Rucker Park.

Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer gets contract extension.

NBA offseason power rankings.

Up next: NBA preseason

Oct. 4 | 6:30 p.m. | Utah Jazz @ San Antonio Spurs | TBD

Oct. 6 | 6 p.m. | Utah Jazz @ Dallas Mavericks | TBD

Oct. 11 | 7 p.m. | Utah Jazz vs. New Orleans Pelicans | TBD

Oct. 13 | 7 p.m. | Utah Jazz vs. Milwaukee Bucks | TBD

*Broadcast information for preseason games to be announced at a later date.