The stage is set for the Utah Jazz to really start enjoying the fruits of their labors. If the right teams lose tonight—New Orleans Pelicans and Minnesota Timberwolves—and the Utah Jazz defeat the Sacramento Kings, the Utah Jazz would find themselves in a three-way tie for 5th place and owning the tie breaker. A win tonight might not come so easy, though. The Sacramento Kings are riding a two game winning streak—BREAK UP THE KANGZZZZ—with wins against the Miami Heat and the suddenly mortal Golden State Warriors. Adding to the degree of difficulty, Ricky Rubio might be limited to fewer minutes tonight due to a knee contusion caused by the idiocy and ineptitude of the Phoenix Suns two nights ago.
With Ricky Rubio’s minutes possibly being restricted, the point guard minutes will fall to Donovan Mitchell and Dante Exum. Dante Exum who had just returned one game ago is going to get a chance at a lot of extended minutes tonight as Utah might have to fill minutes at both the point guard and shooting guard positions as Donovan Mitchell fills in. The Utah Jazz anticipating the lack of depth with a possibly limited Rubio and out of the lineup Raul Neto, signed David Stockton yesterday to a 10-day for a much needed “Break In Case of Emergency” third string point guard.
De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield have been the motor pushing the Sacramento Kings. De’Aaron Fox has been coming into his own, even hitting shots to put the Kings in overtime. They’re a young and talented team. They’re just not disciplined or experienced, and they lack depth.
The Utah Jazz cannot afford to step off the gas tonight. If there was a game they desperately needed a blowout in, it would be tonight. They need to provide minutes to Exum to get him up to speed and to provide Rubio a chance to not spend an absorbent amount of minutes trying to put away the Kings.
When: Saturday, March 17, 2018, 7:00pm MST
Where: Vivint SmartHome Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah
TV: AT&T Sports Net - Rocky Mountain
Radio: 1280 AM/97.5 FM The Zone
Thabo Sefolosha - Knee (out for season)
Raul Neto - Wrist (out for multiple weeks)
Ricky Rubio - Knee Contusion (Expected to play)
Harry Giles - Knee (Out for season)
Iman Shumpert - Plantar Fasciitis/tanking (Out for season)
What to watch for
Dante Exum getting extended minutes
Ricky Rubio nursing a sore knee will open up more minutes for Dante Exum. We’ll get an extended look at DMX (Donovan Mitchell and Dante Exum backcourt) tonight. The key for Exum is to contribute defensively while his offensive game catches up. If Dante Exum can provide the elite defense he was known for before the injuries, then Utah’s bench goes from being an achilles heal to Achilles’ sword. Dante will be tested athletically tonight as he faces off against some young talent from Sacramento. A good test for the 4th year point guard.
Not afraid of De’Aaron Fox: Donovan Mitchell
The De’Aaron Fox vs Donovan Mitchell battle tonight will be lit. It should be a fun time seeing the two go back and forth. Fox looks to be getting his NBA legs beneath him, so tonight could be the beginning of legit matchups between to the two young guards. Donovan Mitchell has been doing work Post All Star break as he has averaged 21 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4 assists a game. De’Aaron Fox hasn’t been a slouch either as he has averaged 12 points, 2 rebounds, and 4.5 assists.
What’s crazy is if you were told Donovan Mitchell would average 12 points, 2 rebounds, and 4.5 assists before the season, every Jazz fan would say, “We got ourselves a star!” How insane has Donovan Mitchell’s season been?
Most Likely Jazz Killer: Bogdan Bogdanovic
Guy shoots threes and can get his shot off quick. Lots of potential. If the Jazz aren’t focused he could go off. Joe Ingles, Royce O’Neale and Jae Crowder are going to get the cover on him tonight. They should handle him, but he’s oozing with potential.