After back-to-back wins to finish up last week, the Utah Jazz (33-30) host the Orlando Magic (20-43). Much to Orlando fans’ chagrin, the Magic are on a two-game winning streak of their own, with victories over Blake Griffin’s tumbling Pistons and the league-worst Grizzlies. Before that they had lost seven straight. The season started with some promise for Orlando when they got out to an 8-4 start. Immediately thereafter, this team fell off the steepest of cliffs with a 4-27 stretch.
They’ve recently had two of their best players return from injury - Aaron Gordon and Johnathan Isaac - while jettisoning franchise-leader-in-triple-doubles Elfrid Payton and his horrendous hair to the Suns. Recently, Evan Fournier has also been on a tear, averaging 19.0 points per game on 37.5% shooting from 3 in the last 10 games. Nikola Vucevic is someone else to keep an eye on, averaging 17 points and 8 rebounds since returning from a hand injury that cost him 23 games. Remember - the Magic are definitely not tanking - Adam Silver promised.
In the playoff race, tonight the Trail Blazers face the Lakers and the Spurs face the aforementioned Grizzlies. In other words, we can’t count on any help tonight, so Utah has to have this game to keep pace.
When: Monday, Mar. 5, 2018 • 7:00 PM MT
Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena • Salt Lake City, UT
TV: Fox Sports Florida and Sun, AT&T Sports Net - Rocky Mountain
Radio: ESPN 580 / Salsa 98.1 FM (ESP), 97.5 FM | 1280 AM The Zone
Dante Exum - Shoulder - Out indefinitely, but return targeted for mid/late March
Thabo Sefolosha - MCL avulsion, out for the season
Terrence Ross - Knee surgery - “probably” a few weeks away from a return.
Rashad Vaughn - Knee - Questionable
What To Watch For:
Shot Distributions (and Jae Crowder)
Since Jae Crowder was traded to the Jazz at the deadline, he’s averaged 13.4 points in the eight games he’s played, all off the bench. In a nutshell, that’s not bad, being the fourth highest scorer on the Jazz in that period behind Spida, Rudy, and Faves, but he’s doing it on 12.3 shots - having the second most shot attempts on the team! For reference, in that same time period, Rudy has 15.4 PPG on 8.5 shots, Faves has 13.5 on 9, and Ingles has 13.3 on 10.4. Crowder is clearly doing great things on the court, but his shooting numbers are down from even Cleveland, not to mention his high water marks in Boston. We’re all rooting for Jae, and hopefully he can shoot himself back into confidence. Also, we definitely need to feed our bigs more!
Return of the Mack
Ah, yes, our old friend Shelvin Mack. He is now the Magic’s primary backup point guard, after journeyman point guard DJ Augustin was promoted to full-time starter in the 10 games without Elfrid Payton. He’s averaging 5.8 points, 2.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists this season on 50% eFG%.
Most Likely Jazz-Killer: Aaron Gordon
Aaron Gordon was the player many on the Jazz expected to pick at #5 in the 2014 NBA Draft. Instead, the Magic swooped him up in a bit of a surprise, and the Jazz landed with Exum instead. Gordon has developed into the prototypical modern power forward - dunks hard, rebounds a lot, complements a decent post game with a decent long-range shot. Though he’s returning from a hip injury that caused him to miss nine games, he’s averaging a solid 18.2 points and 8.3 rebounds while shooting 34.5% from 3 - a pretty good breakout season.
GO JAZZ GO!