The Utah Jazz picked up their first win of this road trip by beating the two-time champion Miami Heat. Sure, they are a different team without LeBron James and they aren't a terribly good home team, and were playing without Chris Bosh -- but it was a good win nonetheless. (Just like our previous win against the San Antonio Spurs without Tony Parker, Tiago Splitter, and Patty Mills... well, I think we see a pattern here.) Tonight the Jazz will attempt to win a second game in a row for the first time this season.
Yes, it's the middle of December and the Jazz haven't had a win streak yet.
They may get the chance against the Orlando Magic. The Magic surprised the Jazz in Utah, and broke a lot of their bad voodoo there. We may remember it as the game where Gordon Hayward tripped over his feet out of a timeout in the fourth quarter. Personally, I was surprised that the Jazz lost. The 98-93 loss on our home floor was bad. But if there's anything we know about the universe it's that karma occasionally happens to the point where we might sometime attribute some level of cosmic justice to the Asian concept.
The Jazz lost at home to the Miami Heat by five, and then five days later they beat them in their gym. The Jazz lost at home to the Orlando Magic by five, and now have a chance to settle the score 16 days later.
Orlando isn't missing a few key rotation players like the Heat or Spurs. Their only injury is to rookie Aaron Gordon, out with a fractured fifth metatarsal in his left foot. While there's no time table for his return, it's not like he would have made a huge impact. From what I've seen of him so far this season he's just a younger version of Trevor Booker, who plays a little more over the rim. And anyway, the Magic didn't need him against the Jazz when they beat Utah in Utah two plus weeks ago. The Jazz are healthy for this game too. And while we've enjoyed more of Enes Kanter and Rudy Gobert, the team really is a lot more composed with Derrick Favors in the game. He's one of the few people I've ever seen play who can make a living out of scoring on tip-ins. The paint shouldn't be an issue tonight with Favors back in the lineup.
The problem, well, the most obvious one, is that Orlando's guards seem to be doing a lot of good things. Victor Oladipo, Evan Fournier, Elfrid Payton, and wingman Tobias Harris all had good to great games against the Jazz. (So did Kyle O'Quinn, but shutup!) Utah's gotta have solid outings from Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Dante Exum, and Gordon Hayward.
I never expect that those four guys for us would be a reason to be concerned before this season started. But now 20+ games into the season I am less high on them as a product of their collective performance. Hayward can be game changing, but against Orlando he couldn't stop Harris from having the type of night you need when you are on the road looking for a win. It should be payback time for our guys.
The Magic have lost 4 of 5, dropping games to the Wizards, Hawks (then beating them the next night in a Home and Home), Raptors, and Celtics. They start off a four game home stand tonight, and had the night off last night. The Jazz also had the night off, but will be playing the 3rd game in four nights, and the 4th game in six nights . . . but really I don't think they should be THAT tired. Like, I wrote a lot of blog posts this week too, guys. Suck it up.
For the Jazz to win tonight they're going to have to dominate the paint. That was something they failed to do last time these two teams played -- when they played in Utah with Nikola Vucevic out with injury. It will be harder this time around. But playing on the road isn't supposed to be easy. And it's the hard times that make you strong.
I'd really love it if our team went out there and played another complete game, four quarters with no let downs. In a learning season this is what we can look forward to more regularly. So why not two games in a row?
Fearful Prediction: Evan Fournier has a big game, because no one can handle his cute little pony tail (does he still rock that?)
Fateful Prediction: Rudy Gobert continues to demand more minutes after a four block shot performance