Tonight the Utah Jazz (29-16) tip off against their regional rivals, the Denver Nuggets (18-25). Tomorrow the team is idle. And the day after, Thursday, is when the team will play their fifth game in seven nights, hosting the Los Angeles Lakers. That game will be seen on TNT. That’s also the game where the All-Star reserves will be announced. Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert are, according to various experts, both in, one in, both on the bubble, one surely not making it, and both snubbed -- all at the same time. (Schrodinger’s All-Stars) There are two games before the All-Star reserves are announced, and really only ONE game to make a difference — tonight. On the road. Against the Denver Nuggets.
And to be fair to the All-Star game, they usually value big stats over wins, and value points over everything else. So let’s look back at New Orleans / Utah Jazz history for a bit, and see which players put up the biggest scoring nights against our rivals. (Data taken from Basketball-Reference.com and may not be 100% complete as their box score database goes from 1983-84 till today).
- 50+ points: Adrian Dantley (51 points, 1981)
- 45+ points: Karl Malone (48, 1990)
- 40+ points: Adrian Dantley (43, 1981), Adrian Dantley (42, 1982), Thurl Bailey (41, 1988), Adrian Dantley (40, 1983)
- 35+ points: Karl Malone (38, 1994), Karl Malone (38, 1992), Adrian Dantley (38, 1980), Karl Malone (37, 1987), Adrian Dantley (37, 1979), Karl Malone (36, 1991), Adrian Dantley (36, 1984), Adrian Dantley (36, 1982), Karl Malone (35, 1997), Jeff Hornacek (35, 1994), Karl Malone (35, 1990), Adrian Dantley (35, 1986), Ron Boone (35, 1980)
- 30+ points: Karl Malone (34, 1995), Karl Malone (34, 1989), Darrell Griffith (34, 1982), Karl Malone (33, 2001), Karl Malone (33, 1989), Karl Malone (33, 1987), Adrian Dantley (32, 1983), Karl Malone (31, 1991), Karl Malone (31, 1988), Gordon Hayward (30, 2013), Carlos Boozer (30, 2004), Karl Malone (30, 2001), John Drew (30, 1983)
- 25+ points: Deron Williams (29, 2008), Karl Malone (29, 1992), Pete Maravich (29, 1979), Pete Maravich (29, 1978), Al Jefferson (28, 2011), Deron Williams (28, 2009), Deron Williams (28, 2007), Karl Malone (28, 1995), Pete Maravich (28, 1977), Kyle Korver (27, 2008), Karl Malone (27, 2000), Karl Malone (27, 1993), Jeff Malone (27, 1992), John Stockton (27, 1989), Kelly Tripucka (27, 1987), Rickey Green (27, 1986), Darrell Griffith (27, 1984), Pete Maravich (27, 1977), Paul Millsap (26, 2012), Deron Williams (26, 2011), Deron Williams (26, 2007), Darrell Griffith (26, 1982), Rickey Green (26, 1982), Gordon Hayward (25, 2016), Karl Malone (25, 1989), Darrell Griffith (25, 1983), Adrian Dantley (25, 1979), Pete Maravich (25, 1978)
You see a lot of scoring forwards here (Thank you Dick Motta offense that was remixed by Frank Layden and then remixed by Jerry Sloan.) The full data set can be found here. You do see G-Time make this list — and making this list with a game from back in November of this 2016-2017 season. But overall you see more of AD and The Mailman on this 60 player-game list. (And because I’m a nerd, here’s the frequency distribution of big games in Denver.)
- 20 Games - Karl Malone
- 11 Games - Adrian Dantley
- 5 Games - Pete Maravich, Deron Williams
- 4 Games - Darrell Griffith
- 2 Games - Ricky Green, Gordon Hayward
- 1 Game - Thurl Bailey, Ron Boone, Carlos Boozer, John Drew, Jeff Hornacek, Al Jefferson, Kyle Korver, Jeff Malone, Paul Millsap, John Stockton, Kelly Tripucka
What does Gordon Hayward have to do tonight?
It’s pretty simple for me here, have the Jazz win, and have Gordon Hayward score 30 or more tonight and he’s an All-Star. Undeniable. The Jazz will have 30 wins before the All-Star Break, and before All-Star reserve selection. And in his last game before selection he will have had a big night. He’s dropped 25 in Denver earlier this season, dropping 5 more isn’t out of the question.
According to his game-logs he has going for 30+ just 5 times this year. In his last 10 games (because recency bias is real) he’s netted 16, 16, 22, 28, 20, 23, 17, 26, 27, and 17 points. That’s an average of 21.20 ppg +/- 4.69. I’m not certain that’s a star-like scoring output for the first option (in his fourth year of being the first option). (N.B. For this season he is averaging 22.1 ppg, which is slightly better.)
Can it be done? Get the win and drop 30? It’s not going to be easy, but it’s possible. The Jazz have been remarkably great on the second night of back-to-backs. And Denver is playing with their wings healthy (Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Juan Hernangomez, Alonzo Gee, Will Barton, etc) — but Emmanuel Mudiay is “very doubtful” according to their head coach Mike Malone. Having to rely upon the ball handling of Jameer Nelson, Gary Harris, and rookie Jamal Murray may lead to a more up and down game with more points and possible turn overs? Joe Ingles has been picking up steals all over the court and Hayward is one of the best transition finishers on the team.
So yeah, that’s something to watch. It’s probably harder for Rudy to make a splash on offense because his scoring is conditional.
What does Rudy Gobert have to do tonight?
Well, he just lost his double-double streak, which was league leading at the time. He’s not going to be able to get it all back in one game, but it does start with re-establishing himself as a rebounds God and points producer.
As for having a big scoring night? Well, he scores mostly at the line, off of offensive rebound put-backs / tip-ins, and on dribble penetration dump offs / pick and roll finishes. So his guards have to be looking for him to help him out a bit. (It’s not like what it was with Dantley or Malone, who could command the ball and go to work.) When all of this is working he can put up points on the board, like it did a few nights ago against the Dallas Mavericks where he posted a career high 27 points.
I don’t see 30 in his future for tonight. It’s hard to predict 30 for a guy who has never scored 30 in the NBA before, and only has six total games of 20 points in the history books over his four season career. But if Rudy gets a 20/10 with blocks and is efficient it helps his case tremendously. The Gobzilla only has FOUR TOTAL 20 point / 10 rebound games this season. He’s a defense-first player. Everyone knows that. But scoring is something everyone watches. And he’s way behind a lot of bigmen in 20/10 games. (Anthony Davis 26, Karl-Anthony Towns 21, DeMarcus Cousins 18, Hassan Whiteside 15, Kevin Love 14, Andre Drummond 9, Nikola Jokic 9, Dwight Howard 8, Blake Griffin 7, Paul Millsap 6, Nikola Vucevic 6, Marc Gasol 5, DeAndre Jordan 5, heck, even Enes Kanter has 5)
Getting 5 at least puts him on par with Marc and DeAndre. (And ahead of guys like Joel Embiid, Kristaps Porzingis, and Myles Turner.)
No one was expecting a whole lot of 20/10 games from Rudy when he was drafted (by the Denver Nuggets, by the way). But if he puts one up tonight it’s only going to make more and more people #TakeFNNote of him.
So what’s going to happen tonight?
The team is tired, on the road, and still playing without Rodney Hood. Well, they still better get a win. Denver has some nice bigmen (Jokic, and Jusuf Nurkic) so Rudy will be up for the challenge and you can tell he WANTS to make the All-Star team this year. (Professional accomplishments ARE inherently meaningful, and having them in the NBA - a for profit business where stars get treated better and are allowed to cheat and get away with it - helps not only him but the team.)
I think Gordon, older, married and with two-kids, would take it ‘better’ if he didn’t make the team. But he’s hyper competitive and wants to make the team as well. It looks like an easier path for him tonight to score 30 than Rudy. But this team has to win. And one of these guys (if not both) needs to have a big game.