NBA Regular Season 2012-2013, Game 34:
Utah Jazz (16-17) @ Phoenix Suns (12-21)
You might not be a contender if Jermaine O'Neal controls the paint against you . . .
Tonight the Jazz look to stay undefeated in 2013 by eclipsing the Suns on their home court. The Jazz aren't a particularly threatening road team (6-13), but by the same token, the Suns aren't kicking guys out of their places either (10-7). The Suns are in the middle of a three game home stand, but have a night off between each game. They're not necessarily tired at all. The Jazz also should be okay to play -- but have a game tomorrow night on the road against the Denver Nuggets. That game will be the third in four nights for us. Not tonight though.
These are two teams that are kind of sputtering along right now, both are out of the playoffs if they started tonight, and the Suns are 4-6 in their last ten games. The Jazz? Worse at 3-7.
Phoenix is a balanced scoring team, where 7 players average between 14.5 and 8 ppg. Over all as a team, they only average 97.3 ppg, so that balances comes into even more importance there. It's not like they dominate on offense, and no single player is getting it done for them. To face them means to face a team. They may not be very good on their own, but you have to defend everyone. The Jazz have 7 players who average between 16.8 and 9 ppg. That's a larger range, but with the same number of players. We're going to be without one of those players tonight meaning we're going to have to skew our offense more top heavy than normal.
That may strain what we do because our top scorers become increasingly less efficient with the more attempts they get. That will be something to watch. And a good juxtaposition against the Suns balanced attack.
Phoenix is one of the few teams to have a winning record against our squad, they lead the all-time series 87-73. They are also an impressive 51-30 in Arizona. The Jazz have won 2 of the last 3 games against Phoenix -- but are really poor in their building in recent times. These two teams have played twice already this season:
In our win we fed our bigmen and dominated (Al Jefferson 27 and 14, Paul Millsap 18 and 13, Derrick Favors 10 and 6). In our loss we shot 27.3 3pt% while letting the Suns shoot 46.2 3pt%. So . . . for us to win tonight we need to dominate inside and not let them kill us from three.
Scouting, Stats, and Stereotypes:
Phoenix does a good job taking care of the ball. They are the 4th best team in the NBA at TOV% on offense. That is impressive when you consider that they play at the 11th fastest pace in the league. They are an average offensive team (13th in PPG, 16th in Off RTG), and really bad on defense. They cause a lot of turn overs on defense and don't really foul that much. Aside from that they are very unremarkable. Opponents torch them from downtown (worst in the league) and grab the majority of the available rebounds, especially when snatching offensive rebounds as the Suns don't take care of the defensive boards.
Does this sound like any team you know? The Jazz are a better than average offensive club (11th in PPG and 10th in Off RTG) that has defensive struggles as well. Unlike the Suns we're not bottom 5 in defense though. The Jazz do foul a lot so that loses some games for us right there, but unlike the Suns, we also get to the line a lot (6th most in the NBA). The Jazz also shoot very well from downtown (9th best), and kill it on offensive rebounds. We're only slightly better on the defensive glass than the Suns though. It would suck if we gave Phoenix stuff they normally never get -- offensive rebounds. They got a lot of second chance shots in the game in December against us, a Jazz loss.
We don't take care of the ball as well as they do, but we have a number of shot blocking options. Over all, we're supposed to be a bigger, rougher team than them. And they are supposed to be more of a finesse team.
But we shoot better from the outside than they do by the numbers. We didn't in our second game this season against Phoenix, and lost in an ugly game. Let's try to not repeat that tonight.
Suns Injuries --
- Channing Frye (PF/C) OUT -- Channing is expected to miss the entire season because of an enlarged heart
- Sebastian Telfair (PG/SG) QUESTIONABLE -- Bassy has a sore left knee and only played 7 minutes in their last game, two nights ago.
Jazz Injuries --
- Mo Williams (PG) OUT -- Mo just had surgery on his right thumb and is out indefinitely now
- Enes Kanter (C/PF) DOUBTFUL -- Enes sprained his right ankle on the 2nd against the Wolves, and while he participated in shoot around, he's not necessarily good to go. I presume him to be a game time decision.
- Raja Bell (SG) OUT -- Raja's new year resolution was to finally get around to replying to all that fan mail from back in 2004, so he's kinda busy tonight.
No Mo, with a chance of no Enes? Huge advantage for the Suns here. The drop off is huge to our 2nd PG and to our 5th big from our 1st PG and 4th big. Yes, Channing Frye is a great stretch big who has hurt us before -- but the Suns are doing fine without him so far in our meetings this year.
I may end up removing this section for a bit . . . .
Randy Foye -- for sure. Last time we played he was obliterated on defense by a borderline starter -- and dude needs to do that thing he does best: make shots. I'm not going to hide the fact that I'm not in Foye's corner; but I do think that if Foye was put in a position to maximize his limited abilities that he wouldn't be useful. He would be GREAT if he was used to do just what he's capable of. (Like so many other players on our squad.) By throwing him to the lions to guard starting NBA players he's always going to be working from a point of disadvantage. With Mo Williams out his three point shooting also comes into greater focus. If the Jazz are going to get a rare road win in Phoenix -- it will probably have to deal with Foye's play tonight. If he's making shots and playing defense we'll have a better chance than not.
I should also point out that while Foye is a factor -- a larger factor would have to be Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Both guys should dominate tonight, but so far this season, have been less than awesome when called upon (outside of some crazy good games in our first 30).
THREE POINTERS! The Suns defense is worst in the league (#30) at defending the three (their opponents shoot 40.1 3pt% against them). We're not much better at #27 (37.9 3pt%). By the pure ranks we're a way better making team than them (#9 vs #25), but we're without Mo Williams tonight. The Suns have 6 players who have taken at least 50 threes so far this season (Jared Dudley (126), Goran Gragic (125), Shannon Brown (113), Sebastian Telfair (77), Michael Beasley (73), and Markieff Morris (53)). By comparison, our group is only 5 players deep, and it's heavily skewed at the top: Randy Foye (171), Gordon Hayward (100), Mo Williams (85), Marvin Williams (75), and Jamaal Tinsley (55).
Both teams are okay on offense, and have a number of bigs who can get shots in the paint. Both teams have guards who can get to the rim as well. The big fight will be for threes. Both teams can't defend them. But we can't let them go off on us, while shooting blanks ourselves.
Hence, the focus on Randy Foye tonight.
Word from the Badguys:
Yeah, I'm still in vacation mode . . .
As an aside:
I'm a bad person, and bad Canadian, for being happy that Steve Nash has never gone to the NBA Finals -- while John Stockton has gone to 2. How many times has Nash gone to the Western Conference Finals? Stockton went there 5 times in 7 years. Nash has great stats, but I think Stockton was better at winning -- despite Nash having 2 MVP trophies. Those glory years Suns teams were very talented, but couldn't get over the Western Conference hump. Stockton made sure we did.
Jazz win, why? Because it's Big Al's birthday today!