After the Utah Jazz traded three more key players in February, what seemed unlikely going into the season appears to be within reach.
However, the Jazz face yet another significant obstacle in their path to the postseason: their timetable.
Starting Saturday night against Boston at home in Salt Lake City, the Jazz have the most troublesome timetable leftover in the NBA. For its final 13 games, Utah’s strength of schedule (win percentage against opponents) is a league-high.556.
That troublesome last stretch for the Jazz (33-36) incorporates a home-and-away set versus the Celtics (49-22), two games against the Sacramento Rulers (42-27), and matchups with the Milwaukee Bucks (50-20), Phoenix Suns (38-32), Denver Pieces (47-23) and Brooklyn Nets (39-31).
Utah and the Los Angeles Lakers are tied for 10th place in the Western Conference, the last of the four play-in spots, heading into Saturday’s game. The Jazz are two games out of the last guaranteed season finisher compartment.
It is abundantly clear that Utah coach Will Hardy and his staff are committed to winning games, despite the Jazz’s association with tanking allegations due to their player transactions and acquisition of numerous first-round draft picks.
Denver is ranked No. 1 despite the fact that the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs have both been eliminated from the West. 1 spot. However, the Jazz are only 4 1/2 games away from being No. 4 seed and just 2 1/2 games ahead of the 13th-place Portland Trail Blazers in the conference.
On the other hand, the Celtics are interested in the No. Eastern Conference’s top seed. They are one and a half games behind Milwaukee in the East and NBA standings.
The Celtics are 47-22, just one game behind the Philadelphia 76ers.
Boston did its part late Friday night, outliving Portland 126-112 out and about. Jaylen Brown scored 27 points, and Jayson Tatum led the way with 34 points and 12 rebounds.
The Jazz should be rested after their most recent contest on Monday, even though this will be their third game in a row on the road. After returning from a six-game trip that ended with a 119-115 loss to the Miami Heat, Utah will play at home for the first time.