The Utah Jazz continue their injury tumble to the finish line tonight as they take on the Sacramento Kings. The Utah Jazz will not have to prepare for De’Aaron Fox tonight as he is out according to health and safety protocols. Additionally, the Kings will be without Harrison Barnes and Marvin Bagley III. By bad luck, the Utah Jazz will be without Mike Conley who re-aggravated his right hamstring injury that kept him out back in February. That means Utah will be without their All-Star backcourt as Donovan Mitchell remains out. That means we get to have the matchup everyone wants to see: Tyrese Haliburton vs Jordan Clarkson.
Despite all the injuries, this Kings team is not to be overlooked. After all, they have recently beaten the NBA best Minnesota Timberwolves 1 out of 2 times. They are 3-3 in their last 6 games with wins over the TWolves and Mavericks. They can’t be overlooked. While De’Aaron Fox was a big reason for their victories, Tyrese Haliburton and Richaun Holmes have been big for them. Holmes was a problem for Utah in their past game as he put up 25 points and 10 rebounds.
During any other point in the season this game would be considered an easy gimme, but considering the Utah Jazz are missing Conley and Mitchell, AND they are finding ways to lose to the Timberwolves three times in the same season, this game is the furthest thing out from a gimme.
When: 8PM MDT
Where: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, CA
TV: ATT SportsNet
What to watch for
Let Rudy Gobert Be Rudy Gobert
Rudy Gobert is not known for being a scorer. He’s averaging 14.5 points per game this season and he’s not the type of player you call an iso for. We know this. But he can absolutely destroy an opposing team on the defensive end. But lately he hasn’t been given the opportunity.
Mike Prada—formerly of SB Nation and current member of Limited Upside Pod—had a great take on Rudy Gobert. Many times when an offensive superstar is cooking, a coach will let them cook. The player gets the playbook opened up or thrown out while they’re doing damage to the opposing team. Other times when a player gets good enough we’ll hear how the coach needs to open up the offense to them so they can get more opportunities to make an impact. But what about on the other side of the ball?
I’m gonna keep being the guy to argue that the Jazz are making things way too complicated when they have Rudy Gobert check “non-shooting” wings instead of playing straight up, even against pick and pop bigs like Towns.— Mike Prada. (PRAY-duh) (@MikePradaNBA) April 27, 2021
The bottom line is that the Jazz’s defense is best when Rudy Gobert is directly affecting the play’s outcome. He’s not a statue. He is better at switching out, and him contesting a pull up 3 is better than him watching as the other four Jazz players fail to contain the ball— Mike Prada. (PRAY-duh) (@MikePradaNBA) April 27, 2021
It sounds weird to call Quin old fashioned with this strategy because it only started a few years ago but the game has changed so much even since then.— Mike Prada. (PRAY-duh) (@MikePradaNBA) April 27, 2021
Quin Snyder has a system for Rudy which is to keep Rudy close to the paint to protect the rim which was and still is a great strategy. But some nights it’s not. Some nights Rudy isn’t able to make as much of an impact because the Jazz will try hard to switch Rudy back closer to the paint while the opposing team is able to breath a sigh of relief that they’re able to take the three against Bojan Bogdanovic instead of Rudy Gobert. Rudy Gobert has leveled up enough to guard everyone and anyone. Which means Utah needs to let him cook more on defense instead of forcing him to watch his teammates get cooked on the perimeter.
Will this force Utah to have to adjust to having their rim protector out on the perimeter more? Yes.
Will this force Utah’s perimeter players to play better off-ball defense? Yes.
Will this force Rudy Gobert to increasingly find a way to be in two places at once more than he already does? Yes.
It will open up other vulnerabilities, but Utah has a secret weapon: the best defensive player in the league, Rudy Gobert. Utah doesn’t need Rudy Gobert to have a 30 point-20 rebound game to win tonight. If Rudy Gobert is the god on the defensive end that we all believe he is, Utah must to put him in more situations that allow him to show off his powers and, in some cases, pull off some miracles.