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Brooklyn Nets at Utah Jazz Game Preview: Which team has more momentum? Which team has more motivation?

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Brooklyn Nets (18-25) @ Utah Jazz (15-28)
EnergySolutions Arena • Salt Lake City, UT
7:00 p.m. (MT) • TV: ROOT Sports • Radio: 1280 AM / 97.5 FM

Al Bello/Getty Images

It's that special time of the year, the semi-frequent "Amar does the game preview in an airport" day! Well, tonight the Utah Jazz will host the Brooklyn Nets, and well, even though the Nets have a) a better record, b) more star players, and c) should win on paper -- I like our chances. The Jazz are at home, where they are 7-12, the Nets are on the road, where they are 10-11, and historically the Jazz are 51-29 all-time in the series, and a dominant 31-9 in Utah. Also, well, this is a biggie, Deron Williams is going to miss this game. (But then again, with how he plays in Utah as a member of the road team, maybe we'd rather have him play?)

At this stage of the season you need to match-up the games you can win with the games where the injury disadvantage is small or neutral. The Jazz have an iffy situation because I have not heard anything about Derrick Favors and his personal situation (which held him out of the last game), and I hope he plays . . . but let's look at the relative on court losses that we know of:

Brooklyn Losses:

  • Deron Williams, Starter, 32 games, 1000 total minutes, 31.3 mpg
  • Mirza Teletovic, Bench, 40 games (4 starts), 892 total minutes, 22.3 mpg

Utah Losses:

  • Alec Burks, Starter, 27 games, 899 total minutes, 33.3 mpg
  • Rodney Hood, Bench, 24 games, 438 total minutes, 18.3 mpg

Derrick Favors is listed as questionable by Basketball-Reference, does not have any updated status according to sports betting websites, and is TBD by the Jazz media notes. Kevin Garnett missed the last game for the Nets for 'rest', so he will be good to go tonight. Not having Favors would make life harder for the Jazz, particularly because D-Fav has been averaging about 17 ppg, 10, rpg, 1 apg, 1 spg, and 1.5 bpg so far this month. Those are good numbers, and significantly better than the 6 and 6 that 38 year old Kevin Garnett is bringing to the table in January.

Anyway, the Nets lost by a huge margin to the Los Angeles Clippers, and 1-1 on this West road trip. And they appear motivated as Brian Fleurantin of NetsDaily writes:

It's never fun to lose. However, it's another thing entirely to get embarrassed on national television. The Brooklyn Nets rolled into Los Angeles Thursday night to play the Clippers on TNT. Unfortunately for them, they got demolished by a score of 123-84. There were points in the third quarter where it looked as if they were going to lose by 50 points, but they managed to lose by "only" 39 points. Due to the Charlotte Hornets loss on Friday night, the Nets are still in the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.

- Brian Fleurantin, Nets Daily, 2015

This is the third game in four nights for them, but I really don't know if they will be tired or not. Lionel Hollins has an interesting rotation where 10 different players have averaged at least 18+ mpg under him. No D-Will means more time for Jarret Jack, and more of the ball in the hands of Joe Johnson. No Teletovic means more Mason Plumlee and Brook Lopez. There's a give and take each way with this deep team.

The Jazz, down two shooting guards, bring two rookies and the Old Spice guy to the table in response (Joe Ingles, Elijah Millsap, and Elliot Williams). The Nets planned to make the playoffs and wanted stars and depth. The Jazz wanted to develop their youth, and as a result -- one team is better equipped to handle middle-of-the-season injuries.

(Captain Hammer voice:) The better equipped team are the Nets

It's not the end of the world, after all, the Jazz are at home, and playing well-ish (4-6 in their last 10), while the Nets are tired, on the road, and have been only 2-8 in their last 10. Momentum is in favor of the Jazz. Capitalizing on that momentum, on the other hand, will be something I will be looking for. (Figuratively looking for, I'm flying out to a country that isn't very League Pass friendly.)

The Nets are formidable, but flawed. The Jazz are theoretical and inconsistent. (They are inconsistently bad and inconsistently good. So, I guess, we can win or lose in any number of ways)

Marquee Match-Up:

Gordon Hayward took control down the stretch against the Milwaukee Bucks when they were all trying to stop him. It was a "moment" for both him and I, he was on display and really made sure the team got the win. The last time I witnessed a moment like that was when LeBron James would not let the Cleveland Cavaliers lose to the Detroit Pistons in a road game in Detroit, in the playoffs. From that point I knew that LeBron found that next level where he could impose his will on a game, and make sure his team won. He was a younger player back then, and years away from being an NBA Finalist. But That was a recognizable moment. Gordon had that moment, though on a smaller scale (the Bucks, on the road, in January, on a team that is going to have to fight for 30 wins).

From seeing G-Time do what he did down the stretch he has -- for me -- put himself in another category of player. And sadly, I will not be so quick to dismiss his poor performances, not after the Bucks game. Not after he took control and took everything they had and almost single-highhandedly delivered the W.

It's going to be important to see him come out and try to replicate the same effort, performance, and play on the court. And the Nets will be aware of it. Of course, they have their own star wing in Joe Johnson. As a member of the Atlanta Hawks he was dominant. He is less so right now, but from what we saw of him in the playoffs last year, he still has many of the moves he used to have.

Invariably there will come times during this game where these two players will be going at one another. The Jazz can't expect Dante Exum to be a flamethrower from deep every night, and I don't know how many more double doubles Enes Kanter has this season -- but those players are entirely complimentary at this point in time.

I feel like Derrick Favors is the heart and soul of this team, but Gordon is the brains and motor. I don't know how to continue this Jazz-enstein's monster analogy. I'm in an airport and trying to eavesdrop on people speaking French next to me. DO they know I love Rudy Gobert? How do I bring it up? Should I buy duty free wine first?

Fearful Prediction:

Brooklyn is legit big inside, and aren't going to be intimidated by our size, with or without Favors. And they will get some important rebounds and points in the fourth quarter.

Fearless Prediction:

Dante Exum gets to the line 3 times.

GO JAZZ GO!