PORTLAND — It’s been a familiar refrain for the Utah Jazz so far this season — how the team has been playing the toughest schedule in the NBA.
As they have for much of the season, the Jazz currently rank No. 1 in strength of schedule with an opponent winning percentage of .535. However, coach Quin Snyder and his players have tried hard not to use the tough schedule as an excuse for Utah’s losing record going into Thursday night’s game.
“I don’t think in any way that’s crept into our team’s mind as an excuse or reason,” Snyder said. “If anything, it’s been something we’ve tried to use to raise our level to the extent we’re getting feedback against some really good teams early in the year. Hopefully, it can help us improve and show us where we need to get better.”
Snyder says his biggest complaint about the early schedule has been all the one-game “homestands” the Jazz have had this year – when the Jazz come home for just one game after a road trip before heading out on another. Incredibly, the Jazz have had five of those already in the first third of the season.
“The one thing I’ve been aware of it when we come home for home games, it’s only been for one game, which is something we’ve had to work through,” he said. “So being on the road has been irregular.”
Snyder pointed out how this week the Jazz came home from a two-game trip to Mexico and Houston for a single game against Golden State before going back on the road for the Portland game. Then the Jazz have to go back home for the second half of a back-to-back Saturday against an Oklahoma City team that will have been waiting in Salt Lake for a couple of days.
The good news for the Jazz is that they have the fourth-easiest remaining schedule in the NBA and the easiest among Western Conference teams. In fact, they are the only Western team to have one of the top 10 easiest schedules as Eastern teams obviously have more games to play in the weaker conference.
PROPS FOR RUDY: Rudy Gobert is having his best season yet for the Jazz with career highs in scoring (14.5 ppg) and field goal percentage (66.3 percent) and his 12.4 rebounding average is just under his career best. He's currently ranked first in the NBA in field-goal percentage, fourth in rebounds and fifth in blocked shots. Gobert also has 26 double-doubles on the season, which is second-best in the league behind Philadelphia’s Joel Embid.Comment on this story
JAZZ NOTES: The Thunder, who defeated the Jazz earlier this month in Oklahoma City, have not played since Wednesday when they defeated Sacramento at home . . . The Jazz schedule is still challenging the rest of this year and early next year with games against Portland and Philadelphia next week and a road trip to start off the new year against three Eastern Conference playoff teams, Toronto, Detroit and Milwaukee, before the schedule finally starts to ease . . . Besides playing the Blazers on Christmas night, the Jazz will play Portland on Jan. 21 at Vivint Arena and Jan. 30 back at the Moda Center . . . Last year the Jazz won here in February in what was the ninth straight win in an 11-game-winning streak but they lost the season finale to the Blazers, dropping them to the No. 5 spot in the final Western Conference standings . . . Joe Ingles played in his 255th straight game Friday, which is the second-longest streak in the league behind Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns. (277).