SALT LAKE CITY – Look at the Utah Jazz’s preseason schedule and you’ll see something curious: three pair.
No, it’s not poker. It’s three consecutive back-to-back series, one against the Lakers, another with the Clippers and a third with the Trail Blazers, which begins tonight in Portland, Ore.
It’ll end Thursday at EnergySolutions Arena, when Portland rookie — and former Weber State star — Damian Lillard returns to the Beehive state.
Throughout the course of an 82-game regular season, NBA teams often play on consecutive nights. And in some cases they even face the same opponents in a home-and-home situation.
But in the preseason? It’s definitely an odd occurrence.
“It’s been a little different,” Utah forward Marvin Williams said. “I’m used to playing different teams throughout the preseason, but at the end of the day you’re still working on your own stuff.”
While working on their own agenda and not necessarily worrying about their opponent, the Jazz swept the Lakers on Oct. 13 and 16 in Southern California, then split a home-and-home with the Clippers — falling to them in L.A. but beating them Saturday night at ESA.
Now it’s time for the Blazers.
Williams said when it comes down to it, it really doesn’t matter who’s on the preseason schedule, or how many times they’re on it.
“We’re working our own stuff right now, so our opponent really doesn’t matter to us,” he said. “We’re trying to gel together, continue to try to learn each other and try to get better.”
Going into tonight’s road game, the Jazz are 4-2 in the preseason.
The Jazz have already begun to trim their roster, and coach Tyrone Corbin is playing his starters and top reserves more minutes each game. The objective, he said, is to try to get those players in shape and in a rhythm for the start of the regular season.
He went with the starting lineup of Mo Williams, Gordon Hayward, Marvin Williams, Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson on Saturday, and that figures to be Utah’s starting lineup when the regular season gets under way Oct. 31. However, Corbin said he is still toying with different combinations, and that will continue in the next two games vs. Portland.
He also said he sees playing a team back-to-back as an opportunity.
“It has its pluses and minuses,” he said. “You get a chance to play a team and you see what they run against you and you can tweak it a little bit to see if you can make the adjustments the next night. I’m sure they’ll make some adjustments also.”
The minus, he said, is not being able to put together a “cheat sheet” on other teams before playing them again in the regular season.
Ultimately, though, it comes back to the fact the Jazz are trying to accomplish certain objectives regardless of who’s on the schedule.
“It is kind of strange playing back-to-back against the same teams,” Hayward said. “But I think you’ve just got to look at it as time to get better and improve your game. (It’s a time to) improve your game, work on yourself and get better as a team.”