The Utah Jazz take on the Brooklyn Nets Saturday night and look to extend their winning streak to 3 games. It is imperative for the Jazz to pick up as many wins as possible at this point in the season to avoid further sliding in the playoff race. The Nets are no easy win though, they have shown all season that they are worthy of being a playoff team and they are well on their way to making that a reality after missing out since 2015.
The Nets come into this game as the second game of a seven game road trip, with a 36-34 record and winning 4 of their last 5 games. The Jazz won the first matchup earlier this season on November 28th, 2018 by a score of 101-91. It was an impressive win on the road against this much improved team but Brooklyn is much improved even since then. D’Angelo Russell has been having a breakout season averaging nearly 21 points and 7 assists per game. It’s incredibly ironic that Russell has emerged as such a leader for this team after comments from Lakers GM Magic Johnson a couple of years ago after trading Russell, “he has the talent to be an all-star…….But what I needed was a leader. I needed somebody also that can make other players better and also [somebody] that players want to play with”. Russell and the Nets will no doubt be tough for the Jazz to slow down.
The Jazz feel like a team in a tenuous position after a week of being in the news. The reality is that the team has played exceptionally well in their past two games, both blowout wins against the Phoenix Suns and Minnesota Timberwolves. The defense has picked up in the last two games after dropping three of their last four. But after it was announced that two fans have been banned from Vivint Smart Home Arena for life stemming from separate incidents of verbal abuse directed towards an opposing player, it was announced on Friday that Dante Exum has suffered another unfortunate injury this season. Exum tore his patella tendon in practice on Friday and it is unknown if he will be able to return this season. The Jazz have had to adapt to not having Exum for so much of this season already that it likely won’t be a devastating blow to their playoff chances. But many Jazz fans were looking forward to the potential for Exum to be a difference maker in the playoffs. None the less, the show must go on and the players will not be making any excuses as they go for win number 40 on the season.
It will be an entertaining game as both teams are looking to solidify their playoff position and gain some steam as the regular season winds down. For the Jazz, this win is critical to snag before they head out on a four game eastern conference road trip. Let’s hope they don’t fall into the trap of thinking it will be an easy win, go Jazz!
When: Saturday, March 16, 2019, 7 p.m. MT
Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena • Salt Lake City, UT
TV: AT&T Sports Net
Radio: 97.5 FM | 1280 AM The Zone
Treveon Graham - Back - Probable
Shabazz Napier - Hamstring - Probable
Demarre Carrolle - Knee - Probable
Allen Crabbe - Knee - Out
Dante Exum - Patella Tendon - Out
What to watch for
Adjusted point guard rotation
With Dante Exum injuring his patella tendon, it will be interesting to see Utah’s point guard rotation going forward. Presumably, Dante Exum will be out for the season and we will see a lot more Raul Neto backing up Ricky Rubio. It will be interesting to see how much of the point guard role that Donovan Mitchell can take on though. Donovan has looked great at times this season at point guard but so has Neto and if he can continue his strong play, it will make it very hard for coach Quin Snyder to justify not playing him more. It’s the very definition of “a good problem to have”.