The Utah Jazz dropped a close game on the road against the Portland Trail Blazers, then the next night had a hard fought game against the Memphis Grizzlies at home. The Jazz lost the first to a variety of reasons, particularly free throw shooting. They lost the second because they just didn't have that last gear to get into after playing from behind almost all night long. After a day's rest, the team got at it again, and lost another competitive game on the road to a Western Conference playoff team, the Phoenix Suns. Now home, and playing in the second night of a back to back, the third game in four nights, and the fourth game in five, the Jazz will try to get that win that has so eluded them this week. They host the Sacramento Kings, a team in turmoil.
These two squads had 17 wins, and a full game (two losses) separate them in the standings. Sacramento is 12th in the west, and Utah is 13th. The Kings are 1-9 in their last 10 games, while the Jazz are 3-7. Utah is 9-15 so far at home this season, and Sacramento is 7-14 on the road. Their combined, cumulative, current losing streak is at five games as a pair. These are teams that are not playing very well right now.
Are injuries a factor? I feel as though the Jazz would be better right now if they had Alec Burks (out for the season) and Rodney Hood (unlucky with his feet) in uniform. The same could be said for the Kings and Darren Collison (right hip flexor strain, likely out till the All-Star Break). I'm not so certain that Eric Moreland (out for the season) is a game changer, but he will be out tonight. A game maker for the Jazz, Joe Ingles, is doubtful to play tonight. Who looks to get more playing time as a result?
For the Kings expect Ramon Sessions and soph Ben McLemore to handle the ball a little bit more than usual -- but really, things should be simple enough tonight to make sure that Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins both see the rock plenty of times tonight. For the Jazz, well, the shooting guard spot has been a revolving door since Alec has gone down. Now without THREE wing players it's going to be tough. Quin Snyder may bring Ian Clark out of storage for this game. Steve Novak could see some time at the three, as well. Jeremy Evans missed Friday's game because of an illness, and I don't know if he's ready to play yet. As always, though, we have the ready and reliable Elijah Millsap to throw out there. Utah's 4th rookie this season may be the one who turns the tides of this game.
I would love for the Jazz to end their losing streak and get a W tonight, but the injuries and the fact that the team is really tired could be a problem to overcome. Historically Utah is up 95-79 in the head to head series, and 62-25 at home. A lot of history is being overturned this year, where losses to the Clippers happen almost every month. So I'm not banking on history for tonight.
I am, on the other hand, banking on the fact that the Jazz -- though losers of their last few games -- are playing winning basketball. Poor free throws one game. Bad turn overs the next. System defense issues the third. Yes, I see that the team has problems, but they are playing better and better each month. Also, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert, and Enes Kanter can stand toe-to-toe with any front court in the league right now, and not be pushed around. Gordon Hayward is playing great, and even Trey Burke seems to have finally woken up. Guard play is an issue, and right now wing depth is at a critical level . . . but it's not like we're playing the perfect team tonight either.
The Kings too have some problems. You could say they are in turmoil right now. Or a free fall. Whatever it is, tonight could be a galvanizing win for their club. They have beaten the Jazz in Utah before, many times over the last few seasons. So it's not like they come into the ESA fearing it.
All-Star DeMarcus Cousins is a load to handle, and Rudy Gay always seems to torch the Jazz. It'll be a good fight tonight. A memorable end to a four games in five nights series for our team.
May the team that needs it the most right now win the game.