Game 47: Utah Jazz (24-22, Road: 6-16) @ Sacramento Kings (17-29, Home: 13-9)
Sorry Jimmer Fredette fans, Isaiah Thomas has been the real impact rookie for the Kings this year.
If I told you 6 weeks ago that we'd be 2 games away from home court in the Western Conference you'd most likely have thought there was a mad sniper at the All-Star Game. Somehow we're doing it, and we (yes WE, the team includes the passionate Jazz fans) are doing it together. The Jazz look for their fifth win an a row tonight when they take on the Kings tonight, who will be looking for their fourth win in a row.
Yeah, I bet you guys didn't see that coming when you saw the schedule for the season back in December.
What's going on with the Kings?
First of all, yes, the Kings are on a three game win streak right now. It is a feat they equaled before from earlier in the season when they beat Portland (at home), Golden State in OT (at home), and then New Orleans (on the road), before falling to the T-Wolves by 2 points. This time, though, it's a little different. They have beaten the Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Memphis Grizzlies. Two of those teams are playoff teams fighting for their lives. Wow. The Kings are doing it with offense. In the last four games they've averaged 116.5 points per game. They are not shooting particularly well (over this stretch) from deep, but get to the line a lot, and make a lot of free throws -- in addition to -- playing at a fast pace and making AT LEAST half of their field goals. They are getting good shots. They are getting a lot of shots. And they are making them. Which, when you don't care so much about defense, results in a solid strategy for winning.
This season their main weapons have been Marcus Thornton (18.9 ppg), Tyreke Evans (17.0 ppg), DeMarcus Cousins (16.6 ppg), and rookie PG Isaiah Thomas (10.1 ppg). Yes, that dude. The "not Lotto pick Jimmer" dude. The same guy who has been torching us this season by shooting 61.1 fg% and 62.5 3pt% in the previous Kings games this season. I think the scouting report should be out on him now as he averaged 15.5 and 4.0 against the Jazz; which is a bit more than his season averages of 10.1 and 3.4. Yes, Jimmer is still Jimmer though, but he's only shooting 38.9 fg% against the Jazz this year.
For the season only one team runs more, as they have the #2 fastest pace in the league. Their offense is #12 in points per game, and #19 in offensive offensive though. They aren't good at scoring (this last little stretch aside), they just keep shooting and shooting. They are pretty much at the bottom of the league in defense though. I'd like to say more mean things about them, but we already lost to them once this year. So I respect them enough to be able to do it again. Especially when they are at home, and we just came off a series of nice wins so we may be dumb enough to look past them.
After the Jump -- What's going on with the Jazz
What's going on with the Jazz:
PLAYOFF PUSH BABY! WE'ES UNSTOPPABUL! Hyperbole aside, I'll leave that to the professionals, the Jazz are winning some nice games, and they are doing it on defense. The Jazz have held opponents under 100 points in 7 of their last 13 games, in four of their last 6 games, and 3 times in the last 3 games. And those three games were an OT game against Golden State, and then games against the Lakers and Thunder. The Jazz are winning with defense, which is a major product of playing Derrick Favors more, and perhaps Raja Bell less. I don't know. I'm just looking at things like synergy, it's not like I'm anything more than a very crazy fan.
As a team the Jazz have been okay defensively all season long, but are turning it on now. And it's not just things like blocks, it's actually stopping the other team from getting good shots. Those count more. They don't show up on the boxscore, but collectively, they show up in the W / L columns. The Jazz are playing well, despite having to mix and match lineups because people are either in or out on any given game.
Devin Harris has been on fire of late on offense, and Paul Millsap seems to be reclaiming some of his previous groove. The engine still is Al Jefferson -- and we're getting something from out bench every night.
Raja Bell is healthy for tonight, so everyone should expect him to help us continue winning games. We're going to need his veteran savvy tonight if we are to overcome Jazz-killers Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins. (And Isaiah Thomas) (And also Jimmer too . . . just so you guys don't murder me)