With how things stand right now, the Los Angeles Lakers look head and shoulders above the Utah Jazz. But as the schedules equalize, that could quickly change.
With a quick glance at the NBA standings, the Los Angeles Lakers definitely stand out as an elite squad given their league-best 17-2 start which includes 10 straight victories. Early into the season, the Utah Jazz are already five games behind them in the standings, a gap which might seem difficult to overcome.
However, as I noted earlier today, the Utah Jazz will soon find themselves in a stretch of games that are almost all extremely winnable. Following the conclusion of their current five-game road trip and a home bout against, ironically, the Los Angeles Lakers, they’ll be favorited in 18 of their next 20 contests giving them an excellent opportunity to surge up the standings.
Compare that to a relatively tough opening stretch, and the Jazz could be in great shape shortly after the turn of the calendar year.
Meanwhile, the Lakers’ schedule has been significantly different from that of the Jazz, and is about to take a complete opposite turn from extremely easy to very difficult. Los Angeles is clearly an elite team – I don’t care who you’re playing, 17-2 is an incredible start. But their record is a bit misleading as they’ve had a very easy path thus far.
They’ve played just five teams with winning records up to this point. Two of those games were losses to the LA Clippers and Toronto Raptors. Their wins came over the Bojan Bogdanovic-less Utah Jazz, the Miami Heat on the back end of a back-to-back and in a wild overtime affair against the Dallas Mavericks. It should also be noted that the victories over Utah and Miami were home games for the Lakers.
Other than that, the Lakers have largely played a slew of likely lottery-bound squads. And even then, most of their wins have been far from impressive as five of their last eight victories have come by five points or less, and against bad teams at that.
In other words, it’s hard to know just how truly daunting the Lakers really are. Is a .895 win percentage accurate to what they’ll end up at? Most likely not, considering how much tougher their schedule is going to get. Beginning on Sunday, they instantly jump into a challenging stretch that features games against the Mavericks, Nuggets, Jazz, Blazers and Timberwolves. Then the close of December gets increasingly more difficult for them as they go.
So, as good as the Lakers look right now and as inconsistent as the Jazz have been, it’s not at all unreasonable to suppose that Utah could catch up with them in the standings or at least significantly close the gap.
The Jazz have an extremely easy schedule from December 7th until January 18th, whereas the Lakers have a tough stretch during that time where they’ll finally be tested. Perhaps they’ll rise to the occasion and prove that regardless of the competition, they’re one of the best in the NBA.
Or maybe, as the schedules start to equalize, they’ll come back down to earth. And a team like the Jazz that has had it very tough to start the year will begin climbing back up the standings to catch up with them.
The Utah Jazz will have a great chance to begin to gain that ground on December 4th when they host these very Lakers inside Vivint Smart Home Arena.