See that thing up there at the top? That's the ball Dwight just swatted. Ridiculous . . . (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
First of all, these 'non' previews aren't supposed to dissuade anyone else from doing a better job. These are just some key things *I* will watch during the game, and perhaps you too will find some of these situations interesting as well. That said, sorry I missed the Miami game (maybe more) . . . the number one thing to remember as FANS is that temperance is the key. Don't get too high in our surprising wins, and don't get too low in our most obvious losses. That said, attempting to apply Hindu/Buddhist philosophy to the 82 game schedule isn't what I'm here for. What I am here for is to write something about this next game. Click on to find out. (Hint: It may involve this Dwight character a bit)Point 1: Dwight Howard
This guy has feasted upon us over his entire career. Well, perhaps feast is the wrong word, but he's had some very solid games. In 11 total games against the Jazz in his career he averages 20.4 ppg (59.3 fg%), 13.1 rpg (4.2 off), 2.1 bpg and 1.4 apg. There's a lot of good there, but with the good there's some bad. Yes, he does average 11.8 free throw attempts per game (effectively getting fouled 6 times in a game, which could mean fouling out the guy guarding him), but he only makes 64.6 ft%. Do you know what 64.6% of 11.8 is? It's 7.6. So that means, on average, he's leaving 4.2 points at the foul line. He obviously is a dominating figure, but no 3 day stay at Hakeem's house is going to make him someone who used to dispassionately destroy us with no regard for human life. For those who care to take a trip down memory lane, Shaquille's destruction of the Jazz during the same time frame (age range of Dwight's numbers, rookie season till age 25) was 25.8 ppg, 11 rpg (5 off) and 3.1 bpg. Dwight is a big problem, but he's not the best we've had to face. That said, he's not the same Dwight we're used to seeing either. This season he's scoring more (while maintaining his average FG% while shooting more), and going to the free throw line over 12 times a game. (That's more or less what he averages against us, remember, 11.8?) The rub here is that his ft% has gone in the sewer so far. He's shooting the worst ft% of his career this year. I guess all those attempts make it hard for him to concentrate at the line. I'm all about making Dwight beat you. (Esp at the line) You don't want to get their three point shooters going.
Point 2: Three pointers
Orlando is built for kick outs and open threes. There are six guys on their team who AVERAGE at least one made three per game. (and all from reasonable to awesome three point %) They have a seventh dude who is making 0.8 a game. We have seven guys TOTAL who have even made one three this entire season. The problem here is that we've been holding teams to 28.9 three point % this season. The funny thing about that is the point that Orlando is only making 32.3 three point % this season. On the other hand, Orlando is letting teams shoot 37.9% from deep, and, guess what, we're hitting 35.6%. Something has to give here . . . The team with the DPOY who locks down the paint is giving up such a high %, while we are shutting teams down from deep. Also, the team built for shooting threes is only average at making them so far. Without testing fate anymore we'll go onto the next point . . .
Point 3: Jeffersap
Superb game for Millsap last night, horrible for Al. Hopefully both can have solid games today, but the Orlando media is suggesting that our boys will face a bit more resistance inside than what Miami brought. As a member of the wolves, Jefferson is averaging 18.3 ppg (43.9 fg%), 9.8 rpg (4.2 off), 1.5 apg and 0.8 bpg. They aren't Dwight numbers, but I think he'll see some better looks in our system than he did being the only option in Minny. To be fair, Jefferson has missed some really good looks, it's not like he's taking and missing bad shots. (Well, he did last month) Jefferson doesn't get to the line that much against Orlando (only 3.7 free throw attempts per game), which is a billion less than what Dwight gets vs the Jazz -- that said, Jefferson is making 72.7 ft% in this games against the Magic. If the Jazz can find a way to get Jefferson to the line, and get him good shots (perhaps on plays where the Jazz draw the defense to the ball handler) things could be much nicer tonight for him than last night.
Millsap, please don't start taking three pointers like crazy . . . just play your game, and you know you're get yours, newest member of the 20-10 Power Forward club in a Jazz uni.
The resistance is going to be much greater, obviously. Dwight is a factor, but they have a number of bigs to throw at you. Gortat, Bass and Anderson will hustle like crazy, and even Lewis can play inside and has the length (if not the desire) to be a good defensive player. If anything, the only real obstacle (aside from Dwight) for our inside scorers will be if they pick up fouls playing defense and have to sit.
Point 4: Free Fesenko
Correlation does not mean causation, but did you know that when Fesenko plays more than 12 minutes a game the Jazz are 13-7? Not bad, huh? Especially since we know he only plays big minutes against teams with strong inside players (so it's not like the Jazz ran up the score on Golden State and Fes got playing time, we know that even in a game where we're getting outboarded Fes can't get on the floor). Maybe 13-7 isn't impressive. When he plays more than 15 minutes a game the Jazz are 8-2. More than 20? 4-1. Something good is happening when he's on the floor one way or the other. Objectively I can't say he's the difference maker, but he does make a difference out there with his size, desire to pass, and honest appraisal of his abilities and weaknesses. (He doesn't take shots out of his range, he pulls himself out of close games to get better free throw shooters in the game, etc) Fes has only played in two games against Orlando in his career. One was a 3 min game where he didn't even foul like crazy to get benched. The other was a game where he played 14 mins and managed 5 boards, 2 blocks and 5 fouls. Fouling Dwight is never a bad thing, esp when he's shooting 55 ft% right now. Elson isn't that shabby either, against the Magic he doesn't have any stand out games, but he does take care of the defensive glass. We can't give multiple scoring opportunities to this team on single trips down the court. If nothing else, Elson will foul like he means it. (warning, that link goes to a Dutch song that is, well, there are some swears)
Point 5: Best player on the floor
Who's the best player on the floor? Deron N. Williams. The N is for Ninja but we already knew that. What he needs to do is come out hard (he didn't play in OT, so it's not like he should be tired), and attempt to murder Jameer in the paint. Deron is still transitioning from being the team leader to being the team leader *and* first option. It's hard for a point guard to do, unless they are selfish. Deron needs to set the tone here, our only advantage is at PG. We got to make the best of it.