The Utah Jazz (16-23) are back on the road against the upstart Miami Heat (21-17). The Heat have been sneaky good this year, currently standing as the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference, despite injuries to Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, Hassan Whiteside, Josh Richardson, and Justice Winslow throughout the year. Building off of the team that went 30-11 in the last half of the 2016-2017 season, this Heat team has no real stars but puts in the work and follows Erik Spoelstra’s game plan. They come in with 10 wins in their last fifteen games, while the Jazz have lost 12 of their last 15. Part of that can be attributed to the Jazz’s absolutely brutal December schedule, but this Heat team is on a roll. The last time the two teams played, the Heat won 84-74 in Salt Lake, so the Jazz will absolutely need to bring their best to kick off this road trip.
When: Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018 • 3:30 PM ET
Where: AmericanAirlines Arena • Miami, FL
TV: AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, Fox Sports Sun
Radio: 1280 and 97.5 The Zone, 790 The Ticket / S: WAQI 710 AM
Rudy Gobert - Knee - Out :(
Dante Exum - Shoulder - Out indefinitely
Raul Neto - Knee, Concussion Protocol (still...) - Out
Derrick Walton Jr. (who?) - Illness - Out
Dion Waiters - Ankle - Out
Rodney McGruder - Leg (stress fracture) - Out
Justice Winslow - Knee - Out
Okaro White - Foot - Out
What To Watch For:
The Fourth Quarter
The Heat now are 1-14 in games in which they have trailed after three quarters. The Jazz are a similarly bad 3-20. It seems that whoever has the lead going into the fourth quarter is much more likely to keep it down the stretch, as neither team is particularly good at pulling back the win. Additionally, when both teams lose, they tend to lose hard - the Heat have been down an average of 13 points in all losses, while the Jazz are down 15 across all losses. However, the Heat are 7-2 in close games (games decided by less than 5 points) while the Jazz are only 1-3, with the sole win over the Cavs. The Jazz will need to ensure that they keep the lead big (enough) and execute down the stretch.
Battle of the Bigs
The Rudy Gobert-Hassan Whiteside matchup is always very fun, but alas, our gladiator cannot fight in this round. What’s good is that we have a more-than-capable backup who can challenge Whiteside on the block - check out this “vintage” highlight reel of Derrick Favors’ 25 points, 12 rebounds, and 7 blocks:
What’s interesting is that the Heat have started a motley crew of 6’6” Justice Winslow, 6’9” James Johnson, and 6’11” Kelly Olynyk at the power forward position at various times, similar to how the Jazz have been forced to start 6’7” Thabo Sefolosha, 6’7” Joe Johnson, 6’10” Jonas Jerebko, and 6’11” Derrick Favors. It will be interesting to see what Spoelstra and Snyder do to attack and counter lineups with variations at the power forward position
Most Likely Jazz-Killer: Wayne Ellington
Dion Waiters is out with an ankle injury, so we won’t be cruising to Waiters Island this time in our trip to South Beach, but the Miami Heat have another journeyman shooting guard who’s having himself a fantastic year. He hasn’t started a single game for the Heat, but has hit 5 or more threes 10 times this season already. He’s shooting 41.5% overall, but his attempts have skyrocketed from 4 per game in November to 10 per game over the last five games, with a game high 24 points (and 16 3 point attempts) in an OT win over the Knicks. Look to him and the Heat to take and make many, many threes in this game.
Honorable mention: cliché-tall-pasty-white-guy-who-is-actually-pretty-good-Kelly Olynyk.