The Jazz (17-19) face the Knicks (9-27) tonight at the Viv, capping off the end of the year with the end of their four-game home stand. The Jazz went (1-2), with a great Christmas win over the Blazers, a close 1 point loss to the Thunder, and a disheartening effort against the 76ers on Thursday. The Knicks, on the other hand, are (1-9) in their last ten, their sole win an overtime nail-biter against the Hornets two weeks ago on the 14th. The Knicks are competitive - competing against the likes of the Cavaliers, Bulls, Hawks, and Suns for the highest lottery odds going into next year’s draft. With the Hawks, Bulls, and Suns with 4 or more wins in their last ten, the Knicks will continue to look to gain ground with Kristaps Porzingis still working his way back to regular practices from his ACL injury. The Jazz need all of the games they can get to get back above .500 before they start the New Year off on another four game road trip vs the Raptors, Cavs, Pistons, and Bucks.
When: Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018 • 6:00 PM MT
Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena • Salt Lake City, UT
TV: AT&T Sports Net-Rocky Mountain, Madison Square Garden Network
Radio: ESPN NY 98.7, 97.5 FM | 1280 AM The Zone
Dante Exum – Right Shoulder – Probable (will play)
Injury updates for tonight:— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) December 29, 2018
Ricky Rubio- OUT (left low back and left knee contusions)
Ricky Rubio – Back / Knee – OUT
Grayson Allen – Ankle – OUT
Jae Crowder – Left Thumb – OUT
New York Knicks:
Tim Hardaway Jr. – Illness – Questionable (will play)
Mitchell Robinson – Ankle – OUT
Kristaps Porzingis – Knee – OUT
What to watch for
The Jazz’s reduced backcourt rotation
Ricky Rubio had a great few games before dropping a 5p/4a/5r stinker on 10%/25% shooting against the 76ers, perhaps due injury, now being listed as OUT with knee and back contusions. However, in his stead, we saw Dante Exum’s best game of the season, with 20 points and 3 three-pointers, building on his success against Portland (averaged 11.5p/6a in two games). With Jae Crowder out at the power forward position, we’ll likely see more Joe Ingles and Thabo Sefolosha at that position, meaning that Royce O’Neale will also get some significant run at the 3, leaving extra space at the 2 as well. Hopefully Dante’s right shoulder doesn’t affect his shooting too much, as we’ll need him across all backcourt positions. Perhaps he can take advantage of the additional time and really continue his previous success into a true breakout.
The Knicks’ Minutes Distribution
Out of the 15 players the Knicks have activated this season, all but former Knick “shot maker wife taker” Ron Baker (now on the Wizards) have started. Outside of Tim Hardaway Jr., no one averages more than 27 minutes a game, and he’s the only one to start every game he’s played. Their scoring is balanced, but low: 7 players average over 10 a game, but only Hardaway Jr. scores over 15 (20.8ppg/3.0apg/3.8rpg).
That’s not to say random players can’t get hot - Luke Kornet, who started in place of Kanter, went off for a team-high 23 points while shooting 7-of-11 from beyond the arc.
Undrafted Rookie Allonzo Trier has been a revelation off the bench when he hasn’t been injured, with 18 games of 15 or more points.
With last year’s starters Enes Kanter, Courtney Lee, Lance Thomas starting a combined 30 games out of a possible 108 starts, Coach Fizdale seems to just be experimenting with what he’s got and dealing with injury in whatever way possible. With a team that’s rebuilding, taking on reclamation projects like Noah Vonleh, Emmanuel Mudiay, Mario Hezonja, and Trey Burke and giving them time to play, the Knicks might be able to help these players live up to their former lottery pick potential. Throw in rookies like Trier, Kevin Knox, and Mitchell Robinson, and you’ve got a recipe for a murky rotation that’s hard to game plan against. The Jazz will just need to out-talent the Knicks in their last game in the 2018 year.