• Sam Gillies

The Race for Home Court Advantage

The Utah Jazz are free falling in the standings, so is home court advantage still a possibility?



With the All-Star break in the rear view mirror, the playoff push officially begins.


The Utah Jazz sit at sixth place in the Western Conference standings. At a record of 36-22, let’s review exactly what has happened this season before taking a look at the schedule ahead.



Season in Review


The Jazz have had one of the most interesting seasons of any team in the league as there is

few teams streakier than Utah this season.


Expectations were high coming into the season and weren’t exactly met to open the year at only three games over .500 in early December.


But then they got on a role, winning 19 of 21 games from December 11-January 25. It seemed for a time that no one could stop the Utah Jazz.


After that amazing stretch of games they lost 5 straight and are 4-4 over their last eight contests.



Looking Ahead


With roughly a third of the season remaining, the theme going forward will be the six-team race for home court advantage in the Western Conference.


Just a 4.5 game difference separates the seventh place Dallas Mavericks and the second place Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference standings. Let's take a look at each team and what the remaining season holds.


Utah Jazz


The Jazz find themselves in sixth place and 4.0 games behind the Denver Nuggets for the

number two seed. Inpredictable gives the Jazz an 16% chance of achieving home court

advantage in the playoffs.


The Jazz have the third easiest schedule of the six teams jockeying for home court, per Tankathon. With that being said, they still have two meetings with the Los Angeles Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Nuggets, as well as another meeting on the road against the Boston Celtics.


Good news for the Jazz is that 12 of their final 24 games will be played at Vivint Smart

Home Arena. The team is 5th in fewest losses at home in the western conference.


They should also be relatively well rested as they only have four more back-to-backs scheduled over the last eight weeks of the season.


Key Games Remaining:

@BOS, DEN, @DEN, TOR, @OKC, @OKC, @DAL



Dallas Mavericks


The Mavericks have the toughest road ahead of the six teams for home court advantage. But they are by any means out of the running.


Dallas has been one of the biggest early surprises despite slowing down a bit recently due to injuries to Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis, and a season-ending injury to Dwight Powell who suffered a right achilles tear back in January.


They trail the Nuggets by 4.5 games and face the second hardest remaining schedule. They are also projected to have a 16% chance at the four seed and home court advantage.


The Mavs play 11 of their remaining 24 games at home. While at first glance that may seem like a detriment to their odds, it

may actually be an advantage as they have a better winning percentage on the road than they do at home.


They are tied for the third most road wins of any team in the NBA.


It is an uphill battle for the Mavericks to obtain home court advantage in the playoffs but with

their star studded duo of Doncic and Porzingis finally both healthy again and chemistry on the court growing, it may not be as steep of an uphill battle as one would think.


The Mavericks and Jazz face off once more with Utah having the 2-0 advantage.


Key Games Remaining:

UTA, @MIA, DEN, @DEN, @LAC, HOU, HOU



Denver Nuggets


The Nuggets are the current resident of the #2 seed but have the toughest remaining schedule of the group.


16 of their final 25 games are against teams currently projected to be in the playoffs.


Despite the tough road ahead, Denver projects to have an 82% chance of getting home court advantage in the playoffs. They look to have complete control over their own destiny when it comes to whom they may prefer to play.


The Nuggets have been one of the most injury prone teams this season. But thanks to great

resilience, effort and coaching they have still found ways to continue to win.


Nikola Jokic suffered a lot of criticism early in the season but as of late has been looking like the MVP candidate that many

expected him to be this season.


They are another team that has 13 more games to play on the road before the playoffs begin but this may be a big disadvantage to the team from the Mile High City as they are only six games over .500 on the road this year compared to their Western Conference best 22 wins at home this year.


The Nuggets will be an interesting team to watch for the rest of the season. We are about to find out if they can finally get consistently healthy and find ways to fix their road woes.


The Nuggets and Jazz still have two meetings remaining this season. The Nuggets have a 2-0 series lead.


Key Games Remaining:

UTA, @UTA, LAC, @LAC, OKC, @OKC, TOR, @TOR, MIL, @LAL



Houston Rockets


The Rockets are another streaky team out West that have been trending in the right direction following their deadline trade of shipping away Clint Capela and switching to a small ball

lineup.


They have the easiest schedule left out of the teams chasing the Nuggets and have only one more back-to-back this season. Houston will face plenty of teams with a losing record. The average win percentage of their remaining opponents is just .485


Inpredictable calculates their ods of having home court advantage in the playoffs being 83%.


They have found a lot of success with their innovative small ball lineups and improved play from former MVP Russell Westbrook. They live and die by the three ball as well as by playing in isolation. James Harden is averaging a league best 35.3 Points Per Game.


This superstar backcourt has single handedly put them back into a home court advantage position as they are currently fourth in the western conference and only 2.0 games behind Denver in the standings.


A big advantage they hold over the Jazz is the season series win which will award them the tie-breaker should both teams both finish the season with the same record. They won two out of the three matchups this year.


Key Games Remaining:

LAC, @LAL, @DAL, @DAL, @BOS, @MIL



Los Angeles Clippers


The Clippers are currently the closest team to catching the Nuggets being just 1.0 game back of them.


They will play this coming Friday night, as well as another time later this season. Those two games will have a huge impact on who lands where at the end of the season.


The Clippers have the second easiest schedule of the group going forward and a 92% chance at home court advantage.


Home court has been their bread and butter this season as they have more wins at

home than any other team in the Western Conference this season. They will play 12 more games on their home floor this season.


The Clippers are another example of a team trying to find their groove during this

final stretch. There hasn’t been a lot of fluidity up to this point due to injuries and “load

management”.


Kawhi Leonard recognizes that it is now or never to build that chemistry. "You never know what could happen," he said following Saturday's 112-103 loss to the Sacramento

Kings, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com. "But I mean, now. The time is now. Just got to keep getting better"


With just under two months of the season to play, the Clippers are more than capable of taking the second seed away from the Nuggets and even building a nice cushion thanks to an upcoming schedule that includes the Nets, Warriors, Suns, Pelicans, and Knicks.


It is time for the Clippers to prove that the team that they put together this past off-season can really pull together and build some momentum going into the postseason.


The Jazz currently hold the series lead over the Clippers at a 2-1 record.


Key Games Remaining:

DEN, @DEN, @UTA, LAL, @LAL, OKC, @OKC, PHI, @HOU



Oklahoma City Thunder


The Thunder are another Western Conference surprise. Chris Paul has put the team on his back after another All-Star campaign.


Despite a sluggish start to the season the Thunder are in fifth place in the Western Conference and 4.0 games back of the Nuggets.


As far as strength of schedule goes, the Thunder sit in the middle of the pack in the Western

Conference. They have the third hardest schedule among our group of teams vying for home court.


The teams they play have an overall winning percentage of .501 so they will play about an equal amount of teams that do have and don’t have winning records.


Their biggest games left will come against their fellow West teams. Seven games total remain against the West teams in slots 2-7 of the standings. If they can win those ones

they will have a big opportunity to climb and truly compete for home court advantage.


They are given just a 9% chance of having home court advantage come April.


The season series with the Jazz is 1-1 with two more contests remaining.


Key Games Remaining:

UTA, UTA, @DAL, @LAL, LAL, @LAC, @MIL, @BOS



The Race


All in all, the standings are anything but set in stone. Unfortunately, the Jazz have had their struggles lately dropping 4 straight coming out of the All-Star Break.


But this is when champions are made, when their backs are against the wall. Are they going to give everything they’ve got to prove they are championship material?


It is the final leg of the season that is going to show the league if this is a team with a chance at playing basketball in June.


Every single one of the Jazz’s 25 remaining games are going to have a huge impact in the standings. If they want home court advantage, if they want that two, three, or four seed, then the time is now to focus, and go out and get it.

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