The Utah Jazz (46-30) play the Hornets (35-41) tonight at the Viv. The Jazz haven’t played since Friday, but they’re riding a 9-1 record over their last ten, winning by an average of 19.7 points. Partially due to this hot streak, the Jazz actually have the highest point differential in wins in the NBA at 15.8 extra points per win - surpassing the Bucks (15.0) and Warriors (14.5). The Jazz are very middle of the pack in losses, though, losing by an average of 11.5 points per game, whereas the Bucks are almost always in close games (6.8 points), far outpacing second place OKC (with 33 losses by an average of 8.3 points). A lot of basketball can’t be encapsulated in numbers, but wins and losses directly correspond to how many more points you score versus your opponents.
Why do I bring this up? There’s research linking regular season point differential with expected wins. Though racking up points against bad teams doesn’t necessarily equate to better success in the postseason, it does show offensive efficiency and/or execution, and if a team might be “underrated” by looking at simply wins and losses alone. By this metric, the Jazz should be (52-24) on the season, in comfortable hold of the second seed, challenging the Warriors (54-22 expected vs 52-24 actual) for the first seed. While the Jazz would be lucky to win out and end the season on 52 wins, they are definitely being under-appreciated (again). The Jazz will need every game from here on out to live up to their billing and get themselves into favorable bracket matchups.
With that said, the Hornets come off of a blowout loss (90-137) in Oakland last night against the Warriors, where Kemba had 9 points on 14 shots. The Hornets’ high scorer was Willy Hernangomez, whose 22 points on 4/5 shooting (14 made free throws) caused him to score higher than any other player on the Hornets. If this isn’t a schedule loss for the Hornets, playing late last night and having to fly out to elevation today, I don’t know what is. That, of course, means this is a trap game. Hopefully the Jazz stay sharp, come out early, and continue to win like they have these past weeks.
When: Monday, Apr. 1, 2019, 7:00 PM MT
Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena • Salt Lake City, UT
TV: AT&T Sports Net - Rocky Mountain, Fox Sports South East - Charlotte
Radio: 97.5 FM | 1280 AM The Zone
Dante Exum — Right Knee — OUT indefinitely
Tony Bradley — Knee — OUT
Derrick Favors — Back Spasms — Day-to-day
Raul Neto — Concussion Protocol — Day-to-day
Tony Parker — Personal — Day-to-day
Cody Zeller — Knee — Day-to-day
What to watch for
C a r d i a c K e m b a
It’s April 1st and we’re nearing the end of March Madness, down to the Final Four. However, March Madness will always be associated with the Hornets’ All Star Kemba Walker and his historic performance 8 years ago. Kemba might not have done too great last night, but he’s had some crazy numbers in the nine games beforehand: 27 ppg/7.1 apg/6.4 rpg, with a 40p/7a/10r game at Houston (loss), 36p/9a/11r vs Boston (win), and 38p/11a/9r vs the Spurs (win). Even though the Hornets are all but mathematically eliminated from the postseason, perhaps Kemba sparks some of that March Madness magic and goes nuclear (again) on the Jazz. Contain him, and the Jazz should be well on their way.
Kyle Korver and Thabo Sefolosha
The Jazz are third in the West in Playoff games on its roster. Kyle Korver’s acquisition added a bunch. pic.twitter.com/56ncpTrtWD— David J. Smith (@davidjsmith1232) March 31, 2019
I found this tweet, shared in our staff chat, to be particularly interesting. As the postseason looms, we see that Kyle (131), Thabo (92), and Jae (46) bring a lot of experience to the team. Faves (26, 4th in current team in playoff games), Joe (22), Rudy (20), and of course Donovan (11) and Ricky (11) are relative newcomers to the post season. While we can count on Kyle and Thabo to come off the bench, hit a few threes, and play solid defense, the two contribute valuable veteran leadership and experience. Look for and applaud their contributions on and off the court.