Game 49: Utah Jazz (26-22, Road: 7-16) @ Atlanta Hawks (29-20, Home: 15-7)
Derrick Favors returns home. Hopes to give fans sometime to cheer about as he attempts to clip Hawks' wings
Derrick Favors was born in Atlanta, graduated from South Atlanta High school, and went to Georgia Tech for college. He's an Atlanta guy, but so far in his career hasn't played very well there as a pro. He has only played against the Hawks as a member of the New Jersey Nets before, and in the game at "home" for him only shot the ball twice -- so that may have something to do with it. Favors isn't a Nets player anymore, he's a Jazz man, and he's with a team that wants him. And he's a huge part of our team. I'd like to see him have a huge game as well. That said, the pressure may be on for him to perform as well (call it the "C.J. Miles @ Dallas" theory).
Tonight the Jazz play the Atlanta Hawks for the one and only time this season. The Jazz have had a lot of problems against the Hawks in recent memory, getting only 3 wins in the last 8 contests. The obvious reasons for our trouble with them stem from their athleticism, very solid interior defense, and ability to make the three. The three point disparity continues to exist this season (the Hawks are # 10 in threes taken a game, and #5 in three point fg%; while the Jazz are #28 and #29 respectively). The Jazz interior defense is vastly bulked up this year with the impressive play inside by Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter -- so there is less of a gap now, especially in the wake of the Al Horford season ending injury. However, I contest that we are just as athletic as they are now. Gordon Hayward's chase down blocks, C.J. Miles' alley oops, Devin Harris' north/south speed, and Alec Burks' turn on a dime and avoid screens on defense ability agree with me.
We're not the same old Jazz. Maybe we won't get the same old result in Atlanta tonight?
After the Jump -- What's going on with the Hawks and Jazz
What's going on with the Hawks?
This season has been a tough season for the Hawks. It starts (for me at least, a fan of traditional bigs) with Al Horford playing only 11 games this year. It's very hard to replace a double double guy who scores at a 55.3 fg% rate, and is the absolute anchor to your defense. And one could say that a guy like Horford is, clearly, irreplaceable. That said, the Hawks have done quite an admirable job, as they are still the #5 team in opponents points per game (ppg), and #5 in defensive rating. Right now they hold the #6 spot in the Eastern Conference Standings, only 2 games out of the #3 spot. I think this is a good team that is doing a lot of good despite missing one of their best players. They're succeeding. And achieving. You respect that. A big reason for that is their 'team first' attitude. Guys like Zaza Pachulia (one of my fav guys on twitter), Ivan Johnson, and even Tracy McGrady are filling in the gaps here and there which allow *stars* like Joe Johnson and Josh Smith to do their things. It's kinda like our team in that way. Except our Al has only missed 5 games this year.
It is no accident that the Hawks are 29-20. They are strong at home, and play great defense. They are #8 in steals, and #7 in assists, while keeping turn overs low (nearly another Top 10 -- they are #11). They aren't sloppy, and they play a highly controlled game. They kind of have to, as their pace is 23rd in the league, and only score 93.9 ppg. A lot of their halfcourt sets end up with either Josh Smith, Joe Johnson or Jeff Teague taking the shot (on average they combine for 43 shots per game, and Atlanta only averages 81 shots per game). They take 53% of all of Atlanta's shots. Their simplified half-court, grind it out offense should be easy to defend against. They aren't as dynamic this season because Jamal Crawford isn't coming off the bench for them this season (thankfully!). He always ate the Jazz up.
Josh, Joe, and Jeff all average (on average) 4 assists per game (3.9, 3.8, and 4.5). They also score the most points. If the Jazz can make life hard for those guys and get the ball of out their hands life could be a bit easier. Make Marvin Williams kill us. Of course, don't let them get a ton of open looks for no-name guys either. Joe, Marvin, Kirk Hinrich, Jannero Pargo (out w/ an appendectomy), Vladimir Radmanovic (sore back), Willie Green, and Teague all average about 1 made three a game. The Hawks long range attack can flat out bury us. This isn't going to be an easy game, even if their offense isn't that complicated.
The Hawks are 6-4 in their last time, and have won 3 in a row. They are good at home, but haven't bee that great against the Western Conference this season, only 6-9. But they haven't had a chance to play us yet. We'll see what both teams are made of tonight.
What's going on with the Jazz?
The Jazz are playing like the last 5 mins of The Godfather movie. You know, where everyone who was a problem gets killed? Lakers? Jazz beat them. Thunder? Jazz beat them. Nuggets? Jazz beat them. Minnesota? Beat them. Warriors? The same. The Jazz have been playing very focused basketball right now; and winning games. How long can it last? Well, the Jazz are having a pretty amazing month right now, but this last long road trip is still going to be a test. The Jazz are getting a full team effort for 48 minutes a game. Devin Harris is balling. Al Jefferson and his cohorts are tearing it up. We're even getting scoring from our wing players.
The good feelings are here, and we're sitting at the #7 spot in the West right now. However, we should endeavor not to get too high in wins, and not too low in losses. The Jazz have to finish the job. Losing our momentum now would be like how the Jazz will be leading late, and then give the game away in the last 4 minutes.
There isn't much to complain about now, yet certain members of the media will dig and dig until they find gold. I'm not going to address that here. Hopefully winning will continue to address all the issues we have.