PK: Look into the Crystal Ball for February


Look into the Crystal Ball for February

By Patrick Kinahan

To get a hint of what awaits the Jazz in the miserable month of March, let’s examine the preceding 29 days known as February.

The schedule makers were kind to the Jazz over the season’s first five weeks, allowing them to play 13 home games with only six away from EnergySolutions Arena. As a warm-up to March, during which they play 12 road games and only seven at home, the Jazz play nine of 15 games in February on the road.

Whereas the Jazz have a five-game and three-game road trip in March, their longest trip in February is three games. In other words, we may not have to wait until April to assess the Jazz’s playoff chances. To have success in March, the Jazz had better do well one month earlier.

While March is more grueling, the upcoming month is not easy. Starting on Feb. 1 at home against the surging Clippers, the Jazz play five games in seven days, including back-to-back games twice. Only two opponents – Golden State and New York – have losing records, but both of those games are on the road.

The Jazz get a break with only four games over the next week, but two are against the Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City Thunder. From Feb. 17 through the month’s last day, the Jazz play six games – the All-Star break accounts for the light schedule – but only Washington seems like a lock to win.

Breaking down the month into the aforementioned three segments, worst-case scenario should put the Jazz at six wins for the month. My guess for best case is 10 wins.

The month starts with a rematch against Clippers at EnergySolutions Arena in a game that should resemble nothing like the beat-down the Jazz administered Jan. 17. The Clippers, who were without Chris Paul and Mo Williams last month, come to Salt Lake City having won back-to-back games against Denver and Oklahoma City, the Western Conference’s two best teams at the time.

Without Raja Bell and potentially Al Jefferson, the Jazz figure to have a difficult time grounding high-flying Blake Griffin and friends. Even if Monta Ellis and Stephan Curry are hitting their shots the next night in Oakland, the Jazz should beat the Lakers at home on Saturday if for no other reason than they’re due.

Over the next two months it’s imperative for the Jazz to beat bad teams, starting with the Knicks in New York on Feb. 6. The two-game road trip concludes the next night against the Indiana Pacers, who are the league’s most surprising team.

The first of the three segments should see the Jazz go 2-3.

The start of Segment Two had better see a sellout crowd rocking EnergySolutions against Oklahoma City on Feb. 10. An 8:30 p.m. start on ESPN on a Friday night will provide a raucous atmosphere that will lift the Jazz to their best home win.

With young legs, Segment Two should be no worse than 2-2, with the potential of 3-1 a decent possibility.

The final phase of the month is manageable, as long as it starts with a victory over pathetic Washington at home on Feb. 17.

The next three games will prove to be a difficult test, as they are spread over three consecutive nights. While the third game in Oklahoma City will be the longest of longshots, the Jazz need to get at least a split against Memphis and New Orleans.

The last three games before the All-Star are spread over four days, with San Antonio at home and Houston and Minnesota on the road. The Jazz may go 1-2 during the stretch but get a five-day break before coming back to play Jimmer in Sacramento and then closing the month the next night at home against Houston.

For Segment Three, a 3-3 record is doable. Following through with the individual predictions, the Jazz record for February would be 7-8 or 8-7.