After a long east-coast road trip, the Utah Jazz (7-4) come home and take on the Atlanta Hawks (5-5).
Both the Jazz and the Hawks are coming into tonight’s game with some extra rest because both teams had their games on Wednesday postponed due to NBA health and safety protocols. For the Jazz, this actually isn’t a bad thing because having the opportunity to get a few extra shoot arounds and practices under your belt early on in the season can help significantly with ironing out some on-court kinks and wrinkles.
For the Hawks, this early stretch of the season has been somewhat disappointing due to the myriad of injuries they’ve had to deal with. Danilo Gallinari has missed the past couple weeks due to an ankle injury, Bogdan Bogdanovic has been ruled out for at least another month with a knee injury, and the number 6 pick in the draft, Onyeka Okongwu, is officially stepping onto the court for the first time tonight against the Jazz.
Through 10 games, Trae Young is having a dip in production when compared to last year. His scoring is down, his assists are down, and his shooting efficiency can’t exactly be described as pretty. John Collins’ numbers seem to reflect the same story, as all of his shooting splits are down slightly from last year and his scoring output has decreased. On the bright side, De’Andre Hunter is having a good start to his sophomore season in the NBA, posting career highs across the board.
For the Jazz, this game will be a great test. They are missing a key part of their bench play in Joe Ingles tonight due to a sore achilles and the Hawks are a young and athletic team that is looking for a good breakout game to get the wheels rolling on their season. If the Jazz build off of their solid play from the last couple games, this could be a great win.
When: Friday, January 15th, 2021 - 7:00 PM MDT
Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City, UT
TV: AT&T Sportsnet - Fox Sports Southeast
Radio: 97.5 FM | 1280 AM The Zone
What to watch for
How will the Jazz handle Atlanta’s lengthy defenders?
If there is anything we have learned about the Jazz this season, it’s that teams that are long and athletic can really make Utah’s life a living hell. Teams have learned that taking away Utah’s ball handlers’ space and keeping consistent pressure on them will force the Jazz into bad shots and silly turnovers. The Jazz seemed to improve in this aspect in their win against the Milwaukee Bucks, but that doesn’t mean the problem can’t reappear. From De’Andre Hunter and John Collins to Cam Reddish and Solomon Hill, the Hawks are chock full of switchable defenders. Not all of them are the greatest on-ball defenders per-say, but their ability to soak up driving lanes with their long arms and athleticism could have a real impact on how well Utah’s offense runs tonight.
I do expect Utah to handle this better tonight than they did in the first few games in season. They have the weapons on their roster to pretty easily counter this type of defense (quick ball handlers and solid pick and roll threats). It will just come down to if they can execute their offense and not get flustered early on.
This should be a fun game tonight! Both teams are full of exciting players that can make a top ten highlight at any moment. I’m looking forward to seeing what the Jazz can do off of a couple extra days of rest and practice.