The Utah Jazz are about to go through the most difficult stretch of their already nightmarish schedule as they face 4 out of the league’s top teams in the next five games. Utah will be tested as they face the Golden State Warriors tonight before they then face the Trail Blazers twice, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Philadelphia 76ers.
Seeing the Warriors next up is akin to seeing that a Hurricane is coming to the deserted island that the Jazz find themselves shipwrecked on. While survival can be seen as a victory in and of itself, it doesn’t bring Utah any closer to the playoffs. Utah has to dig deep in this next stretch of games or they could find themselves in a similar situation as last year being many games under .500—except this time, the journey back into contention is much more hotly contested and difficult.
The Golden State Warriors enter the game winning six out of their last seven games with wins over the Bucks, Timberwolves, Kings, and Grizzlies. The Warriors are almost back to full strength with Steph Curry back in the lineup. Utah will have their hands full on the defensive end and can’t allow themselves to get into an offensive fire fight with the league’s best offense.
Utah’s offense has been struggling mightily. While Kyle Korver initially was a shot of shooting in the arm Utah needed, that injection seems to have worn off as Utah’s offense come careening back to Earth. Over the last 5 games, the Utah Jazz have the 28th worst offensive rating while boasting the league’s 4th best defensive rating. Unfortunately, for Utah, the Golden State Warriors have the league’s 5th best defensive rating.
Nothing will come easy for Utah at home tonight.
There will be no additional advantages for Utah other than playing at home. Golden State is not playing the back end of a back to back and will be rested as they play this quick one game roadie.
For the past 5 games, Utah has been slumping. Sharpshooters Kyle Korver and Joe Ingles are shooting 31% and 25% from three. Ricky Rubio is shooting 23.8% from three. Donovan Mitchell is shooting 35% from three but unfortunately has a 46% eFG%. Things are just bad for Utah right now.
Nothing like playing the defending World Champs to get back in rhythm, right?
If Utah is going to turn things around this season, no time like the present. Last year, Utah’s turnaround came against a brutal stretch of opponents on the road: Detroit, Toronto, then at home against the Warriors. Can they turn their season around against superior talent earlier in this season?
When: 7:00MT • Wednesday, December 19th, 2018
Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena · Salt Lake City, UT
TV: NBA League Pass / AT&T SportsNet
Radio: 1280 AM/97.5 FM
Golden State Warriors:
DeMarcus Cousins - Achilles - OUT
Damion Jones - Left Pectoral - OUT
What to watch for
Can Utah’s defense slow down the Warriors?
Utah cannot find itself in a shootout with the Warriors potent offense. Even if Utah starts out shooting above average—numbers say that Ingles and Korver can shoot terribly from three forever—they will not be able to sustain that success forever. If Donovan Mitchell has to shoulder the offensive load for the duration of this game, Utah will not be in this.
Utah’s defense—despite Utah’s recent struggles—has been quite good. Seeing Utah slow down the Rockets was a good sign, but the Rockets only have Chris Paul and James Harden to worry about. The Warriors have Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant. That’s a nightmare.
Ricky Rubio might want to pull back on his ball hawking against Curry tonight. Paying too much attention to anyone but Curry will result in more open looks for all Warriors players. It’s not just Rubio’s job to slow down Curry as the Jazz switch on the perimeter. Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles will have their work cut out for them.
Which front court pairing will start tonight?
Another game, another time to wonder who will start. Utah played a much better game with Crowder getting the start against Houston. The Jazz ultimately won that game, but Favors was more productive in his minutes and the Jazz kept it closer. Playing Favors and Gobert to start this game once again seems like Don Quixote fighting his windmills except the Warriors are a buzzsaw.
If Favors and Gobert start together, it seems to reason that the Warriors will target those two in switches to make the court seem the length of a football field with their spacing. Likewise, Utah’s spacing on the offensive end will favor Golden State as they’re playing without a traditional big. Many hands make light work and many hands will be puppy guarding the paint against Utah’s lineup that lacks shooters.