If you would have told me that the Jazz would have a three day break in the middle of a six game road series, followed by a set of 3 games in 4 nights, I would be really surprised, and probably be very angry at the NBA schedulers. If you would have told me that the Jazz would be coming in on a three-game losing streak, and the opponents on a three-game winning streak, I’d be rather scared about the ability of the Jazz to step up. Unfortunately, both of these things are byproducts of the Jazz’s ridiculous December schedule, and the fact that the Bulls are somehow on a three-game winning streak, including a blowout 108-85 win over the Celtics on Monday. This three-game streak comes at the heel of a series of 10 straight losses, including the Jazz’s 30 point win earlier in the year.
In those three games, Nikola Mirotic has come back after recovering from his injuries from teammate Bobby Portis. With Lauri Markkanen out with back spasms, Mirotic and Portis poured in 24 and 23 points respectively in that win on Monday, bringing a strong 1-2 punch at the power forward position for the Bulls. To be fair, Kyrie Irving was out for that clash, but it definitely shows that the revitalized Bulls can’t simply be written off.
When: Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, 6:00 PM MT
Where: United Center, Chicago, IL
TV: AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, WGN-TV
Radio: 1280 and 97.5 The Zone, WLS-AM 890 / Univision Chicago 1200 AM
Joe Johnson - Wrist - Game-time Decision
Dante Exum - Shoulder - Out indefinitely
Raul Neto - Concussion Protocol - Out
Cameron Payne - Foot - Out
Zach LaVine - Knee - Out
Lauri Markkanen - Back Spasms - Questionable
What To Watch For:
Battle of the bigs
With Rudy Gobert coming back to full health, the Jazz are again starting the old-school, two big men lineup. The Bulls have committed fully to running out a “modern” lineup with shooters at the 4, with Lauri Markkanen, Bobby Portis and the newly returned Nikola Mirotic shooting a combined 36.0% on 9 attempts per game from downtown on the season. To combat these sort of lineups, since Gobert has returned, Quin has usually been pulling Faves around the 4 to 6 minute mark of the first quarter for Jonas Jerebko, to increase the spacing and allow Faves to rest from chasing these kinds of guys around on the perimeter too often. Additionally, we’ve seen Thabo and Jingles take up the small-ball 4 role, and Joe Johnson, when healthy. While the results haven’t really been there in the three-game skid, we’ll have reserve judgement for just a bit longer to really see if this strategy will be the one that works in the long term.
Donovan Mitchell and Rodney Hood
Over the last seven games, in Rodney’s absence, Donovan Mitchell has averaged 24.4 points, 3.4 assists, and 1.7 steals per game, on 47.6% shooting (43.9% 3PT) all while being defended by the likes of Chris Paul, Khris Middleton, Paul George, and Andre Roberson. For an rookie in any other given year, he’d be the far and away leader for Rookie of the Year. The last time he faced a defense so porous - New Orleans - he set the Utah Jazz record for rookie scoring. This is a great matchup for him, and the Jazz need him to step up yet again in order to get this W. However, with the return of Rodney Hood, still the Jazz’s leading scorer on the season at 17.7 per game, we’ll have to see how the two play off of each other and what lineups Quin Snyder chooses to utilize.
Most Likely Jazz-Killer: Nikola Mirotic
Let’s be honest - the Chicago Bulls are not exactly stacked with talent. That being said, Mirotic was floated at various points as a potential trade target for the Jazz, as a modern spacing power forward to replace the semi-redundancy between Faves and Rudy. Since his recovery from injury, however, he seems to really have been picking up the pace, collecting 24 points and 8 rebounds against Al Horford and the quite stingy Celtics defense. In the presumed continuous absence of Lauri Markkanen, it will again be up to Mirotic to supply most of the offensive firepower.