Utah Jazz prepared to play on road
Team begins 5-game road trip, longest of season, on Monday
Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — The Jazz have some momentum on their side with a three-game winning streak, and they'll need it as they enter perhaps the most daunting portion of their schedule.
And that's only partly because the Jazz will play four road games against Eastern Conference opponents in six days.
Utah leaves town today to face Washington on Monday, New Jersey on Wednesday, Boston on Friday and Philadelphia on Saturday. The Jazz will then have two days off before playing the Lakers in Los Angeles. After that game, they'll return home to face the league-leading Spurs on the second night of a back-to-back.
"This is a tough stretch," said coach Jerry Sloan. "We'll see where we are and see what's going on."
The five straight road games is the longest stretch of games the Jazz will play away from EnergySolutions Arena all season.
"It's a good one," guard Deron Williams said of the road trip. "There will be some good ballgames, some good teams, some teams that are playing well. We've had some success on the East Coast swings this season and hopefully we can do the same thing this time."
The Jazz's success on the road is one reason why they aren't feeling overwhelmed by the upcoming road trip. They memorably swept a four-game road trip against the Heat, Magic, Hawks and Bobcats in November. They went 3-1 in a December trip, beating the Bucks, Cavaliers and Timberwolves, while losing to the Hornets.
The Jazz are no longer road-team roadkill, as they're 12-6 on the road this season. Only the Spurs, Mavericks and Lakers currently have better road records than Utah.
Veteran backup guard Earl Watson said a key to playing well on the road is just handling business one day at a time and not looking ahead on the schedule.
"Take it one game at a time," Watson said. "We've had a lot of success on the road. We want to continue to get better on the road. You always want to win as many games as you can, but never overlook any team that we play."
While being on the road can be draining, and playing in front of enemy crowds is never easy, Watson said there are some positives to being on the road.
"Sometimes it's good to get out and travel," Watson said. "Get on the road with your teammates, build a bond. We got a chance to do something special is the way I look at it. Winning on the road is something special, and we can come back with a great feeling and take that into the All-Star break and after that."
The Jazz will be expected to easily win three of the games during the upcoming six-game stretch. The Wizards and Nets are the second- and third-worst teams, respectively, in the Eastern Conference record-wise. Philadelphia, at 16-23, would be the East's eighth seed if the season ended today.
But Sloan isn't taking any opponents lightly, especially after the lowly Cavaliers got within six points of the Jazz late in the third quarter of Utah's 121-99 win on Friday night.
"They're all tough," said Sloan. "When you look at the game (Friday) night, everybody assumes we're supposed to beat Cleveland, but they played extremely well. We had one of our better halves in the first half all year long (scoring 70 points), and they come right back in the ballgame.
"It doesn't make any difference who you're playing," added Sloan. "You got to play well most every night. Once in a while, you'll catch a team that's tired and struggling a little bit. Hopefully, we're ready to play and the guys compete like the devil."
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