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Rough December gets harder as Jazz face off against Warriors

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The NBA schedule-makers successfully stole Christmas from the Jazz

NBA: Playoffs-Golden State Warriors at Utah Jazz Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz (15-20) are 4-9 this December and have lost five of their last six games. But they’ll try to buck that trend tonight in unlikely fashion against the Golden State Warriors.

This is the first time these two teams have played each other this season. The last game between the Jazz and Warriors was a relatively meaningless April game that the Jazz stole 105-99 (without Gordon Hayward or Rodney Hood) thanks to a great overall team performance where the Jazz had six players score double-digits.

These are two teams that are having near opposite seasons. Utah’s has been filled with frustration and injuries with all hope pointed at the future. The Warriors have had great success with a few minor setbacks with all hope in their short-term prospects.

Game Info:

When: Wednesday, December 27, 2017, 8:30 p.m. MST

Where: ORACLE Arena, Oakland, CA

TV: AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain

Radio: 1280 and 97.5 The Zone

Injuries:

Utah Jazz

Rudy Gobert - OUT (Knee)

Raul Neto- OUT (Concussion)

Dante Exum - OUT (Shoulder)

Golden State Warriors

Steph Curry - OUT (Ankle)

What to Watch For:

Who the Warriors play at center

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Jazz have struggled in the frontcourt, being out-rebounded by an average of 7 rebounds per game since Rudy went down against Boston. How the Warriors decide to try and exploit Utah’s ailing bigman unit will be something to keep an eye on.

Zaza Pachulia will reportedly start tonight for the reigning champs in a return from injury. But rookie Jordan Bell filled in well as a starting center and has emerged as a good option for the team even though his size is more fit for a power forward. As a starter, Bell has averaged 7.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. Pachulia has averaged 5.0/4.8/1.6 but usually only spends 14 minutes on the court.

Utah’s pace

NBA: Washington Wizards at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Warriors play at a high pace with a lot of transition buckets. The Jazz don’t. But when Rudy has been out this year Utah has picked up the pace a bit. When opposing teams have missed shots, guys have been getting down the court quicker to try and set up transition plays. But playing that style might play right into the hands of the offensively superior Warriors.

Quin Snyder might want to play more of the slow-it-down style the Jazz used extensively last year to try and throw Golden State off. But it also has the drawback of having to execute almost perfectly in the half-court to keep up with the hot-shooting Warriors.

Most Likely Jazz-Killer: Kevin Durant

NBA: Playoffs-Golden State Warriors at Utah Jazz Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Normally I try to find a player under the radar who will hurt the Jazz other than the team’s established star, but Durant has become such a force on both ends that it is impossible to overlook him here.

On offense, Durant is an unstoppable scoring machine with the length and skill that gives opposing defenses nightmares without end. And on defense he is racking up blocks while playing at forward. He will be the primary reason the Jazz would lose more than anything else.