There's nothing like coming home.
After a six-game, 13-day road trip, the Jazz know that feeling better than anyone as they're back in the comfortable confines of Vivint Arena for the next four games. But before those games begin with Saturday's showdown against Boston, Utah had a four-day break — an extreme rarity this late in the season.
"We have to try and balance some of this downtime because the season is long and fatigue is real," head coach Will Hardy said. "It's very rare to have this. … You got this four-day break, so it's a good opportunity to rest and practice."
While being on the road in the NBA can produce an "us against the world mentality," Hardy was adamant that being home has many other benefits besides playing in front of the home fans.
"This is a great time to regroup," Hardy said. "We would be naive to not take these four days between games and use some to that recover and rest. It's good for everybody to unpack their suitcases, get back into their own space, see their families, and get some rest. It's a great opportunity for us to get on the court and work on the things that we've been talking about."
Just 1.5 games out of the No. 7 seed in the playoffs, the Jazz understand what lies ahead of them — and how daunting the task is. According to many websites, Utah has the most challenging schedule remaining of any team in the league. So if the Jazz can somehow play their way into the postseason, it will be because they've earned that moment.
"We've got as good a shot as anyone," Kelly Olynyk said. "Everyone is pretty bunched up there. We've got to string together a few wins, keep taking a step forward and playing good basketball, and letting the chips fall where they may."
Despite how the next few weeks play out, Hardy understands the benefits the remaining 13 games will have beyond just this season. For a young team without much postseason experience, playing in games that matter in March and April is often a prelude to bigger and better things — maybe not this season, but for seasons to come.
"I do think it's great that our team at this point in the season is playing meaningful basketball games," he said. "That helps motivate the group. … That helps keep everybody locked in. All these games are very important."
"Hope is a good motivator. … No one's really out of it right now at this point in the Western Conference."
Utah (33-36, 20-13 home / No. 11 Western Conference)
*117.2 Points Per Game (No. 6 in NBA)
*115.9 Offensive Rating (No. 6 in NBA)
*117.2 Points Per Game (No. 22 in NBA)
*115.7 Defensive Rating (No. 24 in NBA)
*Lauri Markkanen: 25.5 points | 8.5 rebounds | 1.8 assists | 40.4% 3P-shooting
*Jordan Clarkson: 20.8 points | 4.4 assists | 4.0 rebounds | 33.8% 3P-shooting
*Kelly Olynyk: 12.0 points | 5.5 rebounds | 3.3 assists | 39.9% 3P-shooting
*Kris Dunn: 11.6 points | 4.8 rebounds | 4.8 assists | 36.8% 3P-shooting
Boston (49-22, 23-13 away / No. 2 Eastern Conference)
*117.6 Points Per Game (No. 4 in NBA)
*116.6 Offensive Rating (No. 4 in NBA)
*112.2 Points Per Game (No. 7 in NBA)
*111.1 Defensive Rating (No. 4 in NBA)
*Jayson Tatum: 30.2 points | 9.0 rebounds | 4.7 assists | 34.5% 3P-shooting
*Jaylen Brown: 26.8 points | 6.9 rebounds | 3.3 assists | 33.8% 3P-shooting
*Malcolm Brogdon: 14.7 points | 4.2 rebounds | 3.6 assists | 45.6% 3P-shooting
*Lauri Markkanen vs. Jayson Tatum
— The two players that both drive winning for their respective teams, Markkanen and Tatum will be relied upon early and often on Saturday night. Markkanen can help the Jazz climb back into the Play-In tournament with a win, while Tatum can lead Boston to a playoff berth with a victory.
QUESTIONABLE | Jordan Clarkson (left hand - fourth finger sprain)
OUT | Micah Potter (G League - Two-Way)
OUT | Collin Sexton (left hamstring strain)
Time: 7:00 p.m. MT
Location: Vivint Arena |Salt Lake City, UT
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: The Zone Sports Network