The Utah Jazz were building toward a very bright future when the 2014-15 season wrapped up. An injury that ended Dante Exum's 2015-16 season before it even began was a big blow this summer, but things are still lucking up for the Jazz overall. And with the release of the 2015-16 NBA schedule, Utah's path to the playoffs is a little clearer.
There's some good news for the Jazz. Utah's usual road trip just before the holidays is no more, and there won't be a back-to-back set of games against the Houston Rockets on consecutive days this season. The Jazz will need to make the most of their opportunities against fellow Western playoff hopefuls, and a bit of luck wouldn't hurt, too. And while all 82 games will count the same at the end of the season, here are five you won't want to miss.
Wednesday, November 18 -- vs. Raptors (9:00 p.m. ET)
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Utah doesn't have the luxury of opening the season at home. In fact, eight of the Jazz's first 10 games (and nine of the first 12) are on the road. This will be Utah's first game back at home after a four-game road trip to close out that first 10-game stretch, and the energy of the home crowd will be a necessary early season pickup for the Jazz. Oh, and it's the re-return of DeMarre Carroll with his new team!
Saturday, November 28 -- vs. Pelicans (9:00 p.m. ET)
The Jazz will be competing with the likes of the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns for the eighth seed in the Western Conference, but an early game against last season's eighth seed will be a nice indication of just how far Utah still has to go to get back into the playoffs. Nothing concrete will be apparent from one game, but it's a nice mile marker.
Saturday, February 6 -- @ Suns (9:00 p.m. ET)
Speaking of those Mavericks and Suns, a four-day stretch in February looms large for the Jazz. Right before the All-Star break, Utah takes on Phoenix. Looking ahead to the time off could prove costly in the playoff race. And after the Jazz face the Suns, they'll head to Dallas ...
Tuesday, Feburary 9 -- @ Mavericks (8:30 p.m. ET)
... for a follow-up contest with the Mavericks. Going .500 over these two games would be acceptable. Winning both would be huge. And two losses? Let's not think about losing both of these games.
Wednesday, April 13 -- @ Lakers (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
The Jazz have six scheduled nationally televised games this season, including the last game of 2015-16 against Los Angeles. The playoff race could come down to the final day; beyond that, this could be Kobe Bryant's last game with the Lakers. He'll likely not have made a decision by then -- or announced one -- but you won't want to risk missing out on the event.
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