The streak is over. It’s bitter-sweet. On the one hand, it was REALLY fun to see all of the coverage of the Jazz during their hottest streak in decades. On the other hand, there’s a bit of pressure off the backs of the players. They can relax a bit knowing they don’t have to keep a long winning streak alive.
But even though the 11-game streak is over, the Jazz will need to put together a few more winning streaks in their last 23 games if they want to find themselves in the playoffs.
When: Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018 • 7:00 p.m. MT
Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena • Salt Lake City, UT
Radio: 97.5 FM | 1280 AM The Zone
Dante Exum - OUT (Shoulder)
Thabo Sefolosha - OUT (Knee)
Dorian Finney-Smith - OUT (Quad)
Seth Curry - OUT (Leg)
Nerlens Noel - OUT (Thumb)
What to Watch For:
How the Jazz bounce back
We all knew the streak would end, it’s how sports works. The Jazz were rusty coming out of the break and played very poorly for large stretches of the game against Portland. The trick is now is for Utah to bounce back and put a bad game behind them.
At this point, the Jazz are about as healthy as they are going to get. Dante Exum will likely return, but the core of the team is healthy right now so there are no excuses left. It’s time to step up, the way they did for the 11 straight games.
Dennis Smith Jr. vs Donovan Mitchell
Smith was pegged as a player who could be a steal in the mid-late lottery. And he’s done well, averaging 14.8 points and 4.9 assists (though he’s shooting 39.3%) even though he’s not the steal of the draft considering what Kyle Kuzma and, of course, Donovan Mitchell have done.
This is also a rematch of the dunk contest. And if Smith gets a shot or two at an open dunk he might put a little flare into it if he’s still salty about losing.
Not only is it a dunk contest rematch, it’s also the first real dual between the two. The first and only time the Jazz and Mavericks have faced off, Mitchell and Smith each played only 17 minutes and Mitchell came off the bench. The two combined to go 4-15 from the field for just 10 points. Things will be different this time around.
Most Likely Jazz Killer: J.J. Barea
It always seems to be Barea. Every time I’ve sat down and watched the 33-year-old man (that I’m taller than) play the Jazz it seems he sparks a run or scores 20 points randomly.
There’s a bit of evidence for this passive observation. Among teams Barea’s played against more than 20 times, he’s averaged the second most point against the Jazz (10.4 per game) and posted his third-best 3-point shooting percentage (38.0%).
Maybe he won’t go off, but experience tells me he’ll come off the bench and randomly have the best game of his season.