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Randy Hollis: Utah Jazz: It'll be a wild, bumpy 'Route 66' for Jazz this season

Published: Monday, Dec. 26 2011 10:09 p.m. MST

Utah plays 18 sets of back-to-back games this season, including six in the first two-plus weeks of the campaign and 10 in the season's first six weeks, along with a back-to-back-to-back road trip in February.

If that's not a recipe for failure, fans, I don't know what is. Of course, every other NBA team finds itself in a similar situation this season as they try to cram their games into a compacted schedule prior to the playoffs.

There is another four-games-in-five-nights stretch in mid-February (Feb. 10 at home against Oklahoma City, a day off, and then three straight road games at Memphis, New Orleans and Oklahoma City from Feb. 12-14).

Stretches of three games in four nights, or four in six nights, can be found throughout, and the All-Star break, from Feb. 23-27, probably never looked so good.

After that, there's a brutal six-games-in-nine-nights stretch that begins with a March 2 home game against LeBron, Dwyane and the Heat and is followed by five road games — Dallas, Cleveland, Charlotte, Philadelphia and Chicago — in eight days.

Another six-games-in-nine-days grind gets under way March 20 at home against Oklahoma City, with four of the next five on the road at Sacramento (March 22), home against Denver (March 23), at Atlanta (March 26), at New Jersey (March 26) and at Boston (March 28).

Utah's youth movement, with only four players over the age of 28, five more in their mid- to late-20s, and four under the age of 21, might actually work in its favor. Those young legs, with much less wear-and-tear than, say, a guy in his mid-30s, might be able to handle the compacted schedule a little better.

But whether or not those young legs can compensate for the team's relative lack of NBA experience remains to be seen.

"Your shots are not gonna fall for you every night, but you can play hard every night," said center Al Jefferson. "We need to be a hard-playing team, and we have to take 'em one game at a time. "We've got to be better defensively. That's the key, that's what's going to win games for us. If we take care of that, I think everything else will work out.

"I think for a short training camp and a short preseason, we got the best out of it and we took advantage of it," Jefferson said. "We feel real good. We're deep, we're deep, we're deep, we've got a lot of guys that can play, guys that could be starters anywhere else in this league. And we've got guys that are young, so we've got to take advantage of it."

Most so-called experts don't give the Jazz much of a chance of reaching the playoffs this season.

Sizing up the schedule, a record right around .500 would be a solid accomplishment for this team. Anything above that should be considered a great success, and a postseason spot would be icing on the cake.

But, realistically, unless everything falls into place and guys like Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap, Devin Harris, Raja Bell, Josh Howard, Miles and Jefferson exceed expectations, it looks like this "Route 66" will wind up with something more in the neighborhood of a 31-35 finish.

Email: rhollis@desnews.com

December

Dec. 27 @ LA Lakers 8:30 p.m.

Dec. 28 @ Denver 7 p.m.

Dec. 30 vs Philadelphia 7 p.m.

Dec. 31 @ San Antonio 6:30 p.m.

January

Jan. 2 vs New Orleans 7 p.m.

Jan. 3 vs Milwaukee 7 p.m.

Jan. 6 vs Memphis 7 p.m.

Jan. 7 @ Golden State 8:30 p.m.

Jan. 10 vs Cleveland 7 p.m.

Jan. 11 vs LA Lakers 7 p.m.

Jan. 14 vs New Jersey 7 p.m.

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