Finally, five games into the season, the Utah Jazz draw a Western Conference opponent that has no realistic shot at the playoffs this year (That might be because the West has a dozen playoff-worthy teams this year, but I digress.) On the contrary, the Phoenix Suns got off to maybe the worst start in NBA history. They lost their first three games by a combined 92 points. They set an NBA record for worst loss in a season opener. Things were so bad, they fired their head coach four days into the season.
On the other side, the Utah Jazz have surprised some opponents this year. After a hot start, they cooled considerably last night in Los Angeles against a Clippers team that looks like they haven’t missed a step with the removal of Chris Paul. Still, looking at the schedule, if you’d told Jazz fans 2-2 after the first four, they’d have taken it.
Long story short, tonight’s gotta be a win.
When: Wednesday, October 25th, 8:00 PM MST
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, Arizona
Radio: 1280 or 97.5 The Zone.
Television: AT&T SportsNet
Dante Exum - OUT (shoulder)
Rodney Hood - PROBABLE (left calf strain)
Eric Bledsoe - OUT (discipline)
Brandon Knight - OUT (ACL)
Davon Reed - OUT (knee)
Alan Williams - OUT (knee)
What to Watch For
The post-coach-firing bump
It’s a tale as old as time. Team underperforms. Coach gets fired. Termination of coach lights temporary fire under team. Team improves, sometimes greatly, for a short stretch before settling back down to Earth. We’ve seen it time and time again in all sports. It started already with the Suns, who won their first game post-Watson 116-115 over the Kings. But, let’s be honest, it came down to the wire and the Kings aren’t that good (Sorry, George Hill). Still, the Jazz would be unwise to overlook this factor.
Familiarity breeds contempt?
Since the ball started bouncing in the 2017 NBA preseason, this will be the third time these teams are facing off. Suffice it to say, these players know each other on the court by now. The Jazz took the two preseason games by 11 and 18 points, but lost Dante Exum for the season on a questionable play by TJ Warren. That wasn’t the only injury the Jazz have suffered against the Suns (remember when Alex Len had George Hill drinking his food through a straw for a while?) and these games have gotten chippy before.
Do I think the injuries on those plays have been intentional? No. In fact, Warren personally apologized to Exum later, which was a classy move. But do the Jazz still remember that? You betcha. Let’s just hope for no injuries tonight.
The dreaded scoring draught
Can we talk about that third quarter last night? I know, I don’t want to either, but we can’t just ignore it. The Jazz kept pace with the Clippers everywhere outside of that third quarter, when it seemed like there was a lid welded onto the rim. A team without a true No. 1 option is going to have those stretches. It’s inevitable. But the Jazz need to limit them as much as they can. They can’t go half a quarter scoring 2 points and giving up 18-2 runs. Find the open man and hit the open shot, fellas.
Most Likely Jazz Killer
Hopefully in this game, unlike Jazz-Suns games in the past, the term “Jazz killer” won’t be meant in a literal sense by the end of the night. If anyone on this Suns team is going to get hot and torch the Jazz, it’s likely to be third year forward Devin Booker. He leads the Suns in points and shots per game. He’s been cold from long range this season, though, shooting only 27% from beyond the arc. His effective field goal percentage is just 47%. Still, We’ve seen in his short career that he can be a streaky shooter. If he happens to get hot tonight, the Jazz could be in trouble.