Tonight two teams with 12 wins each face off. The Utah Jazz, hot off the win against the Oklahoma City Thunder . . . well . . . okay, not hot. That game was an ice age ago. Well, we beat the thunder while Kevin Durant had to do it all because Serge Ibaka and Russell Westbrook were sick. We almost lost - BUT DIDN'T! Gordon Hayward went off and we won. Period. The Cleveland Cavaliers limp into Utah after going 2-8 in their last ten games, and start a five game Western Conference road trip seeing our Utah Jazz, the Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, and then the Denver Nuggets on their way back to Ohio.
This season has been less than optimal for the Cavs, after all they were rumored to be in talks to trade for Richard Jefferson -- in an attempt to upgrade their SF spot. Good teams don't do that. Under Mike Brown they are a top half defensive club (14th in Def Rtg), but their offense is piss poor (27th -- somehow managing to score less than 100.0 points per 100.0 offensive possessions). That's not the surprise. The big surprise is that Kyrie Irving can't LeBron James a bad roster into the playoffs all by himself. Cleveland did make a trade -- and brought in Luol Deng to run around and shoot poorly. Sorry, I'm probably the only guy in the world who isn't crazy about Deng. He made two All-Star teams, one of them while shooting 41 fg%. Wow. (Which is, crazily, the name of his hometown in South Sudan)
We're not really that much better this year. Our Defensive rating is even worse (29th rank), but our offense is slightly better (23rd). So average defense and horrible offense vs. horrible defense and bad offense. I can tell you're excited!
Historically the Jazz are 51-42 against the Cavs, and hold a commanding 33-14 record in Utah. Tonight should be a little more interesting though because of the injury situation. Gordon Hayward (Hip Flexor) is going to be a game time decision. Andris Biedrins (flu) is sick but, like, does he even work here anymore? For the Cavs Jarret Jack was listed as questionable for his back tonight, but had a practice on Thursday and is expected to play tonight. Kyrie Irving was probably to play, and probably will still play -- but he just had a root canal.
Cleveland is a crappy road team, 2-15; and are only 2-5 against the Western Conference. They need to really juice up their production on the court because they were aiming for the playoffs back when they traded for Andrew Bynum. Right now they're 12th in the East. The Jazz are a below average home team, 7-10; and are 5-7 against the East. These incidentals really point in favor of the Jazz here if both teams are at full health.
Of course the big X-Factor has to be the wing fight between Hayward and Deng. No one knows how good Deng is going to be in his first game with a new franchise. He's having an up season of sorts where he was averaging 19 and 7 for the Chicago Bulls, and shooting 27% from downtown. (That's good for him compared to some of his previous seasons) The main deal with Deng is that this season he is getting to the line a career high 5.4 times a game and shooting 81.5 ft% from there. Hayward is having his March Madness Apotheosis a little early, which is so needed because for the season he's shooting quite poorly. Part of it is that he's taking a larger role, taking more shots, and taking different shots than he had previously at the NBA level. But the bottom line is that out of all the rotation wings (Hayward, Alec Burks, Richard Jefferson, and Marvin Williams) he is last in fg%, and last in 3pt% in that foursome. He was on fire last game. Deng will have his long arms full if he's on fire again tonight.
At the end of the day it's about the players . . . .
N.B. These stats for Deng are from his play with the Chicago Bulls this season so far. Also Jack is injured, but supposed to play. Irving and Deng look formidable on paper, and their bigs have sucked. And their wings have sucked. It will be nice to see how Jilla responds tonight, he was a volcano in his last game. Bennett looks really bad.
Amazingly, Anthony Bennett does have some green spots on his shot chart. pic.twitter.com/K8L2j9XNmS— Kris (@5kl) January 10, 2014
|9||John Lucas III||1||26||17.7||4.8||1.1||1.4||0.6||2.3||0.4||0.0||5.9||16.7%||12.4%||3.5%|
Our team has their struggles too -- which will be on display if Gordon isn't able to go. . . . .aaaaaaand this tweet just happened.
One of these two teams will have #13 wins after tonight. We're rested. At home. But no Gordo = no wins, unless Trey Burke really kills it against his home state's NBA team.