There's a lot for each team to prove tonight. While the Spurs are 9-1, their biggest wins have come over the Thunder (in OKC) and Chicago . Their lone loss was to the 9-1 Hornets. I'm not discounting their wins though because the good/great teams are ones that are supposed to blow out the lesser opponents yet still take care of business against against better teams. Given how much match-ups matter and how much can go wrong on any night in the NBA, 9-1 is impressive not matter who you're playing. A win though would solidify their position at the top of the West.
The Jazz have had their ups and downs. Their downs came at the beginning of the season with two losses and the offense looking horrible. Then they turned it around and blew out OKC on the road before losing to Golden State in California.
Then came the biggest week of the young season when they had 5 consecutive games of comebacks where they were down more than 10 points and often down 18. Four of those games were on the road, something that seemed like a pipe dream considering the recent road woes of the team.
While the loss at home to the Thunder was tough, they played well for the most part except down the stretch where they had been killing it. They got that back a bit when they fended off a late run by the Nets on Wednesday night.
The Jazz were the hottest team in the league until they were taken out by the Thunder. Now the Spurs could be considered that team given that they've won 8 straight after splitting their first two games. A win over the Spurs would be a big statement game for the Jazz. The statement would be that they can not only hang with the best teams in the league, but that they can beat them consistently.
After having a dismal record against the Spurs, the Jazz finally broke open the first of seven seals by sweeping the Spurs last season. There were injuries to the Spurs at time but we'll take it. Now that everyone is back healthy, it's going to make getting a win that much harder.
This will be a good benchmark for the Jazz. It won't be a definitive one but here are the things to look for:
- Can the Jazz get a defensive rebound? I don't know if we need someone to yell "Get it (player name)!" from the bench or what. As Boone and Harpring have pointed out, the Jazz need to put a body on somebody before looking up to get the board.
The Spurs though rank 23rd in the league in offensive rebounds.
- Will the Jazz continue to hold opponents to a low three-point percentage. The Spurs lead the league with 42% from the arc. Yet they are below the league average in attempts. That tells me that they're getting efficient looks and not just jacking them up. That's a little disconcerting.
- Can Raja Bell slow down Manu? Ginobili has returned to form unfortunately and is shooting a career high from the field and from the arc. He's also shooting the ball more than he ever has.
- Finally, how are Millsap and Jefferson going to do going up against Blair and Duncan? Al and Duncan head to head have put up similar offensive numbers while Timmy has owned the rebounding edge.
Blair has had a bit of a down season so far compared to his rookie year shooting-wise. His rebound are up a bit as well as his blocks and assists. Millsap of course has shown what he can do, again, when he starts.
To me, this is where the game will be decided. Big Al and Sap are going to have to control the glass and put up some big number on offense. The Spurs front line doesn't score as much as their wings but they're going to have to keep the Spurs from getting any more shots in what's already a very efficient offense.