The Utah Jazz (34-30) kick off a three-game road trip down the Mississippi River basin today against the Pacers (37-27) (playing the Grizzlies on Friday and Pelicans on Sunday). Both teams are riding 3-game winning streaks coming out of the All-Star Break. In that time, the Pacers had strong wins over the Bucks (twice) and the Wizards, fellow playoff contenders, but they come after two strange losses to the bottom-feeding Hawks and Mavericks.
Regardless of their recent schedule, the Pacers are probably the biggest surprise in the eastern conference, standing only 0.5 a game behind the Cavaliers in the 4th seed, and one game ahead of the Wizards, a surprisingly close race in the standings for home court.On the other hand, good things happened for the Jazz last night, with the Thunder, Nuggets, and Clippers all losing. This puts the Jazz only 1 game behind the 8th seeded Nuggets! With both teams losing their top stars this last summer, no one expected either team to realistically compete for the playoffs, but here we are. Suffice it to say that this game is an extremely important for both teams.
When: Wednesday, Mar. 7, 2018 • 5:00 PM ET
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse • Indianapolis, IN
TV: Fox Sports Indiana, AT&T Sports Net - Rocky Mountain
Radio: 1070 The Fan/107.5 FM, 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
Darren Collison - Knee - Out for another week
What To Watch For:
Rudy Gobert has been on an absolute tear in March, averaging 21.0 points, 15.0 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks in 36.3 minutes a game. He’s really looking fully rested and healed from his injuries earlier in the season (knock on wood). Since his return, the Jazz have had the top defense in the NBA over 20 games and 16 wins. Look for him to try to feast on the Indiana frontcourt.
Old Jazz Friends
In our last matchup we saw not-so-fan favorite Shelvin Mack make an appearance as the backup point guard for the Magic. Speaking of Indiana’s frontcourt, we’ll see the Pacers debut of definite fan favorite Trevor Booker, who was recently cut by the Philadelphia 76ers (after being traded from the Nets last December). Also, do you remember that Al Jefferson (the conqueror) is still in the league? He’s coming off the bench for the Pacers, but has received six straight DNP-CDs, having only played in 29 games (13.4 minutes per game) this year. It makes sense, given the glut of talented big men in Indiana, with Thad Young, Domantas Sabonis, and Myles Turner taking up most of the minutes, but it’s been a real fall since his 3rd Team All-NBA season back in 2013-2014. Either way, it will be fun to see former Jazzmen again.
Most Likely Jazz-Killer: Victor Oladipo
Since being traded from the OKC Thunder, Oladipo has had a true breakout year, being selected to the East’s All Star team while averaging 24 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 2.2 steals a game. In the previous matchup against the Jazz, which the Pacers won 109-94, he had 28 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists (5/8 three point shooting), and remains the primary offensive threat. The Jazz will need to lock him down early to ensure this win in Indiana, and his matchup with Donovan Mitchell will probably be the best duel in the game.
GO JAZZ GO!