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Breaking down the Utah Jazz’s remaining regular-season schedule

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) slams the ball home as the Utah Jazz and the Miami Heat play in an NBA basketball game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020. Utah won 116-101.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Quin Snyder had to do a double take.

After his Utah Jazz beat the Miami Heat last Wednesday 116-101 in their final game before the All-Star break, the head coach was asked to assess the team at this juncture of the season before the group took a week off.

Snyder noted the ups and downs the Jazz have had in going 36-18 so far amid incredibly high expectations, and said one trait of the group has been its ability to recognize when things are off kilter and correct them.

“Tonight I think we just started playing really hard, and we’ve done that and we’ve also learned to be a little smarter,” he said. “I think if we can keep building on those things, we’ve got a chance to improve in the second half of the year.”

Then, realizing that his team has played more like two-thirds of the regular season, he said, “Or whatever, the third, after All-Star break. It always seems like half the year. That’s what we need to do, keep getting better.”

Indeed, Utah has just 28 regular season games remaining as opposed to the halfway mark of 41, meaning the home stretch of what looks like will be a wild finish in the Western Conference is in the not too distant future.

The Jazz will return from the break in fourth place in the Western Conference, a half-game behind the LA Clippers for third and 1.5 games back of the Denver Nuggets for second. On the other end, they’re two games up on the fifth-place Houston Rockets.

A big factor in determining how Utah will finish, obviously is its remaining schedule. Of the Jazz’s 28 remaining games, 13 will come against teams currently in the playoff race. Five are against Western Conference squads that are above Utah in the standings (a back-to-back home-away set with the Los Angeles Lakers, one road and one home game against the Nuggets and a home contest against the Clippers).

There’s also a home game against Houston on Saturday, two road games against the Oklahoma City Thunder, a home game against the Memphis Grizzlies and a road outing versus the Dallas Mavericks left.

While neither the Portland Trail Blazers nor San Antonio Spurs are currently in the top eight in the West, they’re within striking distance, and the Jazz have a combined four contests left against them (two home and one road against the Spurs, one road against the Trail Blazers).

As far as Eastern Conference opponents go, Utah has just three games left against teams currently in playoff contention, but all three are against teams with better records than the Jazz. Both meetings against the Boston Celtics remain, and there’s also a home game against the Toronto Raptors.

Utah has five back-to-back sets remaining, including two road games against the Celtics and Detroit Pistons and a road-home set to conclude the regular season against the Thunder and Nuggets.

According to the website Tankathon’s model, the Jazz are right in the middle of the NBA in terms of remaining schedule strength at No. 15. That said, Denver is the only team ahead of Utah in the West standings that has a more difficult slate, and Oklahoma City is the only other squad in the West’s top eight that has a tougher schedule.

According to FiveThirtyEight’s game-by-game projections, the Jazz are favored in 19 of their remaining contests.

Utah’s full remaining schedule: