The Utah Jazz (24-6) have had a few days off since the showdown in LA. They come back home with the opportunity to continue their dominance against the Charlotte Hornets, who won a crazy game against the Warriors (without Steph) 102-100 on Saturday in Charlotte. Down 2 with 9 seconds to go, Draymond Green got two technicals and was ejected. Terry Rozier sank both free throws and hit the game winner, capping off a 36 point night with 8 insane threes (on 11 attempts, including a made half-court buzzer beater).
With that said, the Hornets aren’t that great of a team, especially with team leader Devonte’ Graham still out with injury. The fact that they had to go the extra mile against a Warriors team playing 6’6” forwards Draymond Green, Juan Tuscano-Anderson and Eric Paschall at center should tell you a lot about this guard-heavy team. This again opens up opportunities for rookie sensation Lamelo Ball, far and away the Rookie of the Year candidate, who also dropped 34 points and 8 assists on the Jazz earlier this month. So while the Jazz are the obvious favorites in this game, the Hornets have players who can go off at any moment. Watch out for a certain Gordon Hayward, 2017 #11 pick Malik Monk (two spots before a notable someone), Rozier, or Ball, as they could decide they have something to prove against the league’s best team.
When: 7PM MST
Where: Vivint Area, Salt Lake City
TV: AT&T SportsNet-Rocky Mountain, Fox Sports Southeast-Charlotte
Projected Starting Lineups
UTAH: G: Mike Conley G: Donovan Mitchell F: Bojan Bogdanovic F: Royce O’Neale C: Rudy Gobert
CHA (predicted): G: Lamelo Ball G: Terry Rozier F: Gordon Hayward F: PJ Washington C: Cody Zeller
What to watch for
Three Point Shooting
In the last game against the Hornets, the Jazz set the current franchise record of 26 made threes in a game, capping off 23 games averaging above 40% from three on about 42 attempts per game. In the seven games since, the Jazz have averaged just 34.1% on that same 42 attempts per game. The shots that the Jazz are getting look about the same, it’s just not falling. Against the Hornets, and that previous record, look for the Jazz to regain some of that shooting magic.
That won’t necessarily be easy because of...
The biggest thing that stood out in the game against the Clippers was how Mitchell and co were taken out of the game by an aggressive, swarming defense. While a lot did not go the Jazz’s way in terms of calls, one common theme in times where the Jazz have struggled has been opposing teams playing tough and physical right out of the gate. We saw this earlier this month, in the first quarter against this very same Hornets team. Of course, the Jazz figured it out, went on a run in the 2nd and set that franchise record. But it’s much easier to win games by winning early, setting the tone and making the defense adjust to you, rather than the other way around.
Another interesting issue that popped up against the Clippers was defensive rebounding. Nothing was more painful than seeing Ivica Zubac grab OREBs on multiple possessions and Kawhi grab two in a row during crunch time in the fourth. Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo are an excellent center rotation at offensive rebounding - the Hornets as a whole are among the best OREB teams, tied with the Jazz and Celtics for 4th at 11.1 per game. (The Pelicans lead the league at 11.6.) For a team that doesn’t generate many turnovers, the Jazz need to take care of the ball defensively and end possessions, or risk giving their opponents additional extra chances. Rudy, Derrick, and Royce are holding down the fort, but the wings and guards (especially Bojan and Joe, who average around 4.5 per 36 min) need to step it up. Against the Clippers, Bogdanovic, Ingles, Conley, and Clarkson totaled 3 rebounds in their collective 111 minutes on court. Rebounding is just one of those fundamentals that casual fans likely underrate in importance when it comes to stellar defense and winning games. With this game against the Hornets, look for the Jazz to rebound and start another winning streak.