Last time these two teams met, the shorthanded Indiana Pacers easily embarrassed the Utah Jazz, a team that has been more embarrassed than not so far this season. Tonight, these two teams are in an eerily similar situation: the Jazz are coming off of a win that, despite being against the Sacramento Kings, is important. The Pacers are still without their star shooting guard Victor Oladipo. This time, though, the Jazz are missing a star too: Donovan Mitchell is still nursing a rib injury, so it’d be cool if Ricky Rubio could go off for 27 points or something crazy like that.
Speaking of crazy, the Jazz are in 14th place in the Western Conference right now, but are only 4.5 games out of first place. It sometimes feels like the season is over when I watch the Jazz shoot 4-28 from deep, but it’s really not. The team is still in this. Hopefully last game is an indicator that they’ll start acting like it.
When: 7:00 p.m. MT, Monday Nov. 26
Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City, UT
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: 1280AM/97.5 FM
Donovan Mitchell — Rib Contusion — OUT
Victor Oladipo — Knee — OUT
What to watch for
Points in the Paint
Against Sacramento, Utah scored over 60 points in the paint, which was crucial to their blowout victory. The game in Indianapolis was a different story. Domantas Sabonis feasted inside, and the Jazz settled for bad outside shots. That’s a toxic combination that can’t happen tonight if the Jazz—or any team—want to win. As an aside to saying that the Jazz need to own the paint, they also need to control the perimeter. If they can’t, they put Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors in bad situations, and they can’t always recover.
Can Ricky Find His Groove?
I know I harp on this every game, but it’s always something to watch for. Which Ricky Rubio shows up? Is it 10-12 Ricky? 1-12 Ricky? 6-14 Ricky? We can’t be sure, but in order to win without Donovan Mitchell the Jazz need Ricky to a) score when he can and b) control the ball. Turnovers have been killing the Jazz this season, and they can’t afford to give up any more points than they already are.
Can our Backup Backcourt Players Perform?
One of the more disappointing, if not subtle, storylines so far this season has been the fizzling of Royce O’Neale. We saw last season that he had the potential to be the perfect backup shooting guard with his athleticism and shooting. This season, he’s been athletic, but not a particularly good shot, hitting below 30% from distance. Dante Exum, though he has many residents on his island, is not performing well of late either. He’s missing easy shots and turning the ball over. As a 5th year player, he should be able to control his movements better than he does.
Where’s the Defense?
So far, the Jazz have been winning games by beating opposing teams on offense. In the last few years, their identity has been pounding (or boring) the opposing team into submission with defense and playing methodical half-court offense. So far, the Jazz are giving up 100+ point nights almost every time they step on the floor. It hasn’t killed them—yet—but if they don’t find their identity soon they may be in real trouble.