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Jazz Get Defensive Test Against Nets

Can the Jazz get the statement win of statement wins tonight?

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Brooklyn Nets
Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets face Utah Jazz
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz look to continue winning ways on the second night of the team’s extended road trip.

Trends

The Nets and Jazz enter tonight’s matchup holding the fifth and sixth best point differential in the league over the last two weeks, respectively, per Cleaning The Glass.

For the Nets, that recent spike in efficiency has come from the offensive side of the ball. Despite Brooklyn’s star-studded lineup, the Nets have sputtered through this season due to injuries, chafed personalities, and one player’s refusal to receive a vaccination that would allow him to play in home games.

In the fifteen games since trading James Harden for Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and Ben Simmons (who has yet to play), the Nets have posted an offensive efficiency rating of 117.5 and a defensive efficiency rating of 115.1, or, the ninth ranked offense and 19th ranked defense. In the five games since Kevin Durant returned from injury, however, the Nets have recorded the second best offense and the ninth best defense in the league.

The Jazz, conversely, have made major strides on the defensive side of the ball recently. For the season, Utah has had the best offense in the league, averaging an offensive rating of 117.8, while its once elite defense has slipped to ninth best this season.

Over the last two weeks, however, Utah’s defense has outplayed its offense. During that stretch the Jazz have recorded an offensive rating of 120.8 and a defensive rating of 107–that’s seventh best offensively and the fifth best defensively, league wide.

Injury Report

Jazz fans should expect Mike Conley to return to the starting lineup after sitting last night against the Knicks. Bojan Bogdanovich, who last played March 12 against the Sacramento Kings, will also remain sidelined with a calf injury.

Also expected to miss tonight’s game:

  • Udoka Azubuike (ankle sprain)
  • Danuel House (bone bruise, knee)

Expect Trent Forrest to dress.

Brooklyn will enter tonight’s matchup without the following players:

  • Kyrie Irving (research)
  • LaMarcus Aldridge (hip)
  • Ben Simmons (back)
  • Joe Harris (ankle)

Standings Ramifications

Weeks ago the Jazz looked sure to give away homecourt advantage to the Dallas Mavericks, who surged after trading away Kristaps Porzingis. But a refocused Jazz team has emerged recently as the Mavericks have failed to usurp the fourth-seed. Since beating Utah on March 7, the Mavericks have lost games to New York, Philadelphia, and Charlotte.

The Jazz have a two game lead over Dallas for the fourth-seed and homecourt advantage, and are only two games behind Golden State, who has stalled due to an injury to Steph Curry. Keep an eye on the Dallas-Minnesota matchup tonight, as the hungry Wolves loom just a game-and-a-half behind Dallas in sixth.

Brooklyn enters tonight’s game looking to create separation from Charlotte one game behind the Nets in ninth. The Nets are in all likelihood locked into the Play-in Tournament. That subplot is a juicy one, as the Nets would likely be without Kyrie Irving due to Covid restrictions should they play the Toronto Raptors in the 7-8 matchup as the standings currently have them. The Nets would like to win as many games as possible to avoid a scenario in which they are without Kyrie in the Play-in Tournament.

Game Notes

Kevin Durant is the toughest defensive assignment in the NBA. Utah usually pits Royce O’Neale against the opposing team’s greatest perimeter threat. That will likely be the case tonight, especially without Danuel House. Look for Rudy Gobert and the rest of the team to clog the lane and help on Durant drives, forcing him to pass. Expect Rudy Gay to matchup with Durant in the minutes when O’Neale sits.