SALT LAKE CITY — Earlier this month, Donovan Mitchell playfully jabbed at the lack of national TV games the Utah Jazz had in the first half of the season, saying, "People don't know about Royce (O'Neale) because we don't play on TV."
If you thought the league's best record and a couple of All-Star selections would change that, well, you probably were disappointed when the second half of the schedule came out on Wednesday. But there is still plenty of good news about Utah's schedule — notably it being deemed as the easiest in the entire league. Let's break it down.
National TV contests: The Jazz will have six games broadcast on ESPN and TNT in the second half — up (but not by much) from the four they had in the first half of the year.
The full list is:
- March 16 @ Boston (TNT)
- March 24 vs. Nets (ESPN)
- April 7 @ Suns (ESPN)
- April 17 @ Lakers (ESPN)
- April 19 @ Lakers (ESPN)
- May 7 vs. Nuggets (ESPN)
Some fun games here, with the mini-series against the LA Lakers coming in April being the obvious standouts. Anthony Davis should be back for the Lakers and that two-game set could very well decide the top seed in the conference — ESPN apparently thinks so, too.
Longest road trip: The Jazz's longest road trip will be five games from March 14-22 and will take the Jazz pretty much around the entire country.
The Jazz will start in Golden State (March 14), then go to Boston (March 16), Washington (March 18), Florida to play Toronto (March 19) and then finish up in Chicago (March 22). Outside of that trip, though, the Jazz will only have three-game road swings in the second half.
The mini-series games: Georges Niang made it crystal clear how he felt about the two-game sets against the same team, saying, he didn't like them "at all, to be honest with you."
"It's never easy to beat a team twice or three times," he continued. "And when you have them back to back, what you did to them last game is fresh in their mind. I would much rather play a different team and move on."
But due to COVID-19, the NBA wants to limit travel, so the two-game sets continue. And with all due respect to Niang, it's not a terrible idea to keep them around permanently. They're fun, and sports are supposed to be fun. That said, a two-game series against the Cavs is a lot different than a two-game series against the Lakers.
Utah will have three such two-game series set in the second half.
- Home vs. Memphis, March 26 and 27 (This one has a bonus, too. Following the two-game set in Salt Lake City, the Jazz will play a quick game against Cleveland then head to Memphis for yet another game against the Grizzlies.)
- Away @ Los Angeles Lakers, April 17 and 19
- Home vs San Antonio May 3 and May 5
The makeup game: The Jazz have only had to postpone one game during the first half of the season — a Jan. 13 game against Washington. That contest will be made up on March 18.
Easiest schedule: From March 26 to April 13, the Jazz will play 12 games, with just two coming against teams who are currently above .500. That will be a theme for Utah following the All-Star break. The Jazz have the easiest second-half schedule based on opponents' win percentage, which mostly comes from the fact they don't have to play themselves.
The Jazz are currently 13-2 against teams that are below .500 teams. They're also 12-4 against teams who are over .500, so a tough first-half schedule didn't slow them down much.
On top of that, Utah will also get a chance to ease back after the break. The Jazz will have a full nine days off between games for the All-Star break. It's not all sunshine and rainbows, though: Utah will have to play eight back-to-back games over the course of the second half.
Games we are looking forward to the most: The Jazz are playing like a contender. So, of course, we are excited to see them against other top teams in the league.
- March 24 vs. Brooklyn Nets: First time playing against the trio of James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. No one has been able to stop them from scoring — how will the Jazz stack up?
- April 7 @ Phoenix Suns: Like the Jazz, the Suns have skyrocketed up the standings. Phoenix is 12-2 in its last 14 games and are currently in fourth in the West. If the Suns and Jazz can keep up their current winning rate, this one could be against the top two teams in the West.
- April 17 and 19 @ LA Lakers: A two-game series set against LeBron, AD and the defending champs? Yes, please.
- May 7 vs. Denver Nuggets: Without question, the Jazz's most-heated rivalry. The teams have seen a lot of each other lately and don't appear to like each other much — that usually means fun for the viewers.