I’m super new to this. The Jazz have been lucky this year. Not nearly enough to make up for all the un-luck from last year, but it’s a start. Utah played in LA against the Lakers without Andrew Bynum, and then played in Denver against the Nuggets without some of their more potent assets (in China). Utah also hosted the New Orleans Hornets without Eric Gordon. And most recently played at home to the Milwaukee Bucks without Andrew Bogut, Mike Dunleavy, or Beno Udrih. Tonight the Jazz face off against the Memphis Grizzlies without MSU’s own Zach Randolph. (And also Darrell Arthur) This is good fortune, and we’ll know in a few hours if the Jazz could capitalized on this
This crappy chart shows who the Grizz have been starting and playing. There are two things of note here, Mike Conley has returned to the starting line-up and moved Jeremy Pargo to the bench. Also because of Z-Bo’s injury Dante Cunningham (a 6’8, 230 forward from Villanova) is starting. Dante averaged 9 and 4 for the Charlotte Bobcats last season in 24 mpg. Over the last four games he has played between 18 and 24.5 minutes each night. He hasn’t cracked the 10 point barrier yet, but has provided solid, if not spectacular play. Against the Minnesota Timberwolves (their last game) he played his lowest minutes in the last four games, and shot 1 for 7, finishing with 2 points. It remains to be seen how much he’s going to be used, as Memphis traded Greivis Vasquez to New Orleans for Quincy Pondexter. Memphis isn’t that big without Arthur and Z-Bo. They do have Marc Gasol, who we all love; and also recently brought back Hamad Haddadi to the Grizz. (You may remember Haddadi from back when he played for the Iranian National team during the last Rocky Mountain Review – his Jersey said Ehaddadi back then though . . .)
Memphis wasn’t playing super with Z-Bo on the court, but without him things have become a little bit more difficult. However, they are getting better.
In the last three games they’ve corrected their offensive inefficiency, while getting their defense back where it needs to be – under 100. They are bound to have another good offensive game because, hey, they are playing a team that isn’t that great on defense. (Remember we were blown out three times in the first week of the season) The primary offensive force for them is Rudy Gay. Gay is, essentially, the perfect type of guy to hurt us. He’s fast, athletic, and can do it all on offense. And he’s likely to be defended by Josh Howard, Gordon Hayward, C.J. Miles – and hopefully Jeremy Evans tonight. Only one of those guys is an okay defender – and that’s the guy who is always on the bench. That’s also the only guy who has the length and athleticism to keep up with him. Because it makes all too much sense to all of us to use Jeremy against him, I’m sure Tyrone Corbin will do the opposite. And we’ll foul and foul and foul all night long because we can’t keep up with Gay.
Gay hasn’t been super efficient in the last three games, but by sending him to the line at least 7 times tonight, things will start to look better for him offensively. Nothing like playing the Jazz, if you are a wing in a semi-slump.
On the other side of the ball, we have all the size in the world and should take full advantage of it. Big Al is playing his best all of the season, and Paul Millsap, Derek Favors, and Enes Kanter are all more than capable of hurting them. Our dribble penetration will be tested early and often by Conley, O.J. Mayo, and Rudy Gay. This will be an interesting game to watch – particularly because the Jazz are defied the odds and are undefeated at home so far this season. No Z-Bo means less need to double team guys, and hopefully players can stay ‘home’ on their men on the perimeter, and not allow cheap open shots.
I predict there will be a game tonight.