Will the Utah Jazz Hit the 50-Win Mark?

Mar 27, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) reacts to a call during the second half against the New Orleans Pelicans at Vivint Smart Home Arena. The Jazz won 108-100. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 27, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) reacts to a call during the second half against the New Orleans Pelicans at Vivint Smart Home Arena. The Jazz won 108-100. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports /

The Utah Jazz have had an exceptional season so far, but will they be able to finish strong enough to reach that impressive 50-win mark?

At the beginning of the 2016-17 NBA season, speculation was high that this would be the year that the Utah Jazz finally got over the hump and made it back into the playoffs. While, as always, there were plenty of doubters, the question facing the majority of fans and NBA experts wasn’t so much a matter of whether or not the Jazz would make the playoffs, but rather how high they would go.

While I’d venture a guess that many of those folks figured that Utah would more or less sneak their way in as they almost did last year, ESPN’s Zach Lowe was among one of the bolder folks who pinned the Jazz as a 50-win squad coming into this season. On a separate instance back in July of 2016, he even went as far as to say the following:

"“This is a versatile, mammoth team that should win 50 games next season. Seriously, predicting 50 wins for the Jazz is not bold. They are that good.”"

Of course there were plenty of doubters as you can see in just a spattering of such tweets that I’ve included below:

Nevertheless, here we are with just eight games remaining in the season for the Utah Jazz and they sit at a solid 45-29. With just five more wins the Jazz will prove Zach Lowe right and reach that highly desirable 50-win mark.

Of course, looking at Utah’s schedule, it’s not going to be as easy of a task as one might think. Here’s a look at the Jazz’s final eight contests:

3/29 at Sacramento

3/31 vs. Washington

4/2 at San Antonio

4/4 vs. Portland

4/7 vs. Minnesota

4/8 at Portland

4/10 at Golden State

4/12 vs. San Antonio

That includes three games against the two best teams in the league, one against one of the hottest in the Washington Wizards and two against surging Portland who appears to be on a mission to earn a playoff spot.

Of those eight, the games against Sacramento and Minnesota would seem to be the most winnable. However, Sacramento gave the Jazz a run for their money in the latest contest and Minnesota absolutely destroyed Utah they last time they met, so even those aren’t guarantees by any means.

Beyond that, Utah appeared to match up well against Washington in the previous meeting and with this upcoming contest being on Utah’s home court, they should have a good shot of earning a win in that bout as well.

Finally, Utah’s home game against Portland is one that I expect them to win. As good as Portland has played lately, the Jazz will come into that game with a day of rest while the Blazers will be on the second night of a back-to-back. Not to mention, while Portland boasts a phenomenal offense, their defense leaves much to be desired and I expect Utah to outwork them on both ends of the floor.

However, even if those four games fall into place, deciding which one of the remaining four will become the 50th win is a much tougher task. Utah will have to beat one of either San Antonio or Golden State, or win a tough road contest at Portland that comes on the back end of a back-to-back. To be quite honest, none of those sound all that favorable.

Perhaps the Spurs will opt to rest players by the time that final game rolls around which could help as well, but given that obviously even the games I’ve pointed out as probable Jazz wins are far from guarantees, there’s simply no doubting that finally earning 50 wins is going to be a tall task.

It should be pointed out that well before the season started and throughout the course of 2016-17, Zach Lowe pointed out that the one asterisk involved with his 50-win prediction had to do with Utah being able to stay healthy. A big reason why they missed the playoffs in 2015-16 was due to several injuries affecting the team and unfortunately such has been the case once again this year.

Take away this season’s injury woes and there’s almost no debating that the Jazz would easily be able to end the year with 50 wins based on what they’ve done so far. Nevertheless, the fact that they still remain within realistic striking distance of still pulling that off in spite of an endless string of injuries perhaps makes their season even more impressive.

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To be perfectly honest, I’m a little nervous about Utah’s chances. They haven’t played well of late and there’s no questioning how difficult the road ahead is for them. Nevertheless, I’m going to go ahead and predict that they defeat Sacramento, Washington, Portland at home and Minnesota, then find a way to win at least one of the remaining four games, as I mentioned, to arrive at 50 wins.

Perhaps San Antonio will rest players in the final game or the Jazz will simply surprise the Spurs this Sunday, maybe they’ll finally get that ever elusive win over Golden State, or possibly Utah will step up and get a tough win in Portland over a team that Utah should beat on a level playing field.

Despite suffering from some inconsistency and year-long injury woes, the Jazz have shown on many occasions that they are indeed capable of playing like a 50-win team. As the season winds down, all they have to do now is find the grit and determination to maintain that level of play throughout their final eight games and earn the adequate number of victories to make it official.