The Utah Jazz (20-7) are firing on all cylinders, with a league-leading 8 wins in a row and a historically potent offense. After kicking off a six game holidays home stretch with a dominant win over the hurting Clippers, the Jazz look to keep up the momentum as they build towards playing the Mavericks on Christmas in the bright lights of the national stage. Much ado has been made about the Jazz’s hot stretch, so I won’t belabor the point here, but the last four games have all been wins by 20 points - the longest stretch in franchise history!
The San Antonio Spurs (10-17) are finally rebuilding after many years of constant success. Pop is playing a lot of young guys, and the franchise is trying to figure out who the future of the franchise will be. They’ve had a number of good wins this season, from beating the Bucks in Milwaukee (without Jrue), the Warriors in San Fran, the Blazers by 31, and the Nuggets at home, but they also just gave up 110 points to the Hornets in three quarters (and 41 to old Jazz “friend” Gordon Hayward in that time frame) as well as bad losses to the Magic and Thunder earlier this season. So, which version will the Jazz see tonight?
When: 7 PM MT
Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena
TV: AT&T SportsNet-Rocky Mountain (allegedly), KENS5
Radio: KZNS/KTUB, WOAI/KXTN
Projected Starting Lineups
Utah: G: Mike Conley G: Donovan Mitchell F: Bojan Bogdanovic F: Royce O’Neale C: Rudy Gobert
San Antonio: G: Dejounte Murray G: Derrick White F: Doug McDermott F: Keldon Johnson C: Jakob Poeltl
What to watch for
Donovan Mitchell vs the Spurs’ Guard Rotation
Donovan Mitchell is on absolute fire. From winning Western Conference Player of the Week two weeks ago to averaging 29 points, 5.3 assists, 1.6 steals and 4 three pointers made per game (43.2%, 55.4% from the field) over the last 8 games, Donovan will look to carve up the Spurs’ deep guard bench.
The Spurs have Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV, Devin Vassell, Tre Jones, Bryn Forbes, and Josh Primo fighting for time in the backcourt. Due this glut of talent, especially with the defensive abilities of Murray, White, and Vassell, Pop has occasionally gone with three-guard lineups, which we could see against the Jazz’s smaller backcourt. Look for the Jazz to try to outgun these young guns.
I have a bit of a soft spot for undersized forwards who are tenacious rebounders. Keldon Johnson was a surprise inclusion for the US Men’s National Basketball team in Tokyo on their rocky way to a gold medal, including a key 15 points against Spain in their last tune-up before the tournament. While Pop is also the Team USA coach and that probably had something to do with KJ’s selection, the 6’6” forward is a blast to watch between his sweet shooting (44.3% from three this season) and high-flying dunks. Look out for the energy and grit he brings to the game.