Tonight the Utah Jazz continue their 6 games in 9 nights Eastern Conference road trip, and will face not just the Indiana Pacers, but possibly also a late winter storm. The weather does look grim in the Midwest, but the Jazz are encountering another storm today, a media storm. Gordon Hayward, the All-American Indiana product, always gets extra attention in his home state. Much more than other players do (we do not see a throng around Derrick Favors against the Atlanta Hawks). Trey Burke comes close, but it's divided between Detroit Pistons and Cleveland Cavaliers games.
This is not just an opportunity for Gordon to answer questions off the court, but one to answer questions on the court. The Pacers have quite a few highly visible wings in All-Star forward Paul George, fellow 2010 Draft class member Evan Turner, and the swagtacular Lance Stephenson. Gordon's going to need some help tonight for the Jazz can't expect him to highhandedly defeat the #1 team in the NBA by himself.
Indiana is a commanding 45-13 and a dominating 28-3 at home. They are the best team in the league, have won 4 games in a row, and are 7-3 in their last 10. The Jazz hold the one game advantage in the overall series (39-38) but are only 13-25 in the house that Reggie Miller built. It's going to be a tough game, built around defense. And that's what the Pacers excel at. They are #1 in DEF RTG, and #1 on lowest opponents PPG (only allowing 91.2 points per game). Of course, their pace is on the slower side (17th in the league), but that's still a much faster game than the Utah Jazz play (27th fastest).
For the Pacers there are two injuries. Andrew Bynum is Andrew Bynum, and their starting PG is banged up but will see how he feels at game time. Hill has a bruised left shoulder, and didn't play on Saturday against the Boston Celtics. If he's not good to go then expect the ball to be in the hands of George and Stephenson even more.
The Jazz are almost perfectly healthy, but Lucas III has gastric distress, and Evans has a sprained ankle. But the Trib and Des News both tweeted out that he will play tonight.
|x||John Lucas III||1||2||36||15.3||4.3||1.0||1.1||0.6||1.8||0.4||0.0||5.8||16.9%||11.1%||3.8%|
Utah shares the ball a lot more, but the main problem is going to be how we battle their vets. Guys like Scola scare me. But it will be a good test for Enes if he can play him to a stand still.
Over all I think this game is going to be an education. Which is sad, because I still remember the good old days when the Jazz used to be the ones teaching the Pacers a thing or too. The strong is going to be outside, but the battle will be fought in the paint.
I believe in our bigs. I think we will put up a good fight tonight.