The Utah Jazz wrap up their three-game road trip with a matinee clash against Royce O’Neale and the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday afternoon. The game will have playoff implications for both teams as the Nets inch toward clinching a playoff spot and the Jazz are fighting to stay in the mix for the play-in tournament. With only five games left, Utah’s season may hinge on whether or not they can get some of their major contributors back. The team leading scorer, Lauri Markkanen, is a game-time decision and the Jazz will still be without Jordan Clarkson, Rudy Gay, and Collin Sexton.
Utah has played relatively well in their previous two games of this road trip. The team has managed to stay competitive in games even with their leading scorer missing time in large part due to the fact that Talen Horton-Tucker has averaged an efficient 34.5 ppg over the last two. If Markkanen is ruled out for this game, the Jazz are going to need more than just a large game from Horton-Tucker to pull off the win though. Brooklyn comes into this game on a 2-game win streak and fresh off of a 42-point game from star SF Mikal Bridges. Bridges is good, but the key for the Jazz will be to play solid team defense and slow down the Nets' guards.
Brooklyn enters this game with a record of 42-35 and in 6th place in the Eastern Conference. Although winning this game would not clinch the playoffs(yet), it would put them a full two games ahead of the Miami Heat for the last automatic playoff spot with four games to go. Even though their contender status may have been diminished since the trade of Kevin Durant, the Nets seem to have stabilized and are playing like a team that nobody will want to face in the playoffs. Star SF Mikal Bridges has averaged 26.8 points for the Nets and is playing the highest level of basketball that he has played to this point in his career. The key for the Nets in the game will be to start strong and try to bury and demoralize Utah early on.
Hopefully, both teams are well rested, and the Jazz get at least some of their injured players back so that we can enjoy an entertaining game as the regular season wears down. If you are a Jazz fan that is cheering for the tank, then maybe we can hope for back-and-forth nailbiter and Royce O’Neale buries a game winning three right at the end. If you are not “team tank” then you will hope that Walker Kessler blocks the last shot and we barely escape with a win. Either way, enjoy your Sunday matinee, GO JAZZ!!
When: 1:30 PM MST
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
TV: ATTSN-RM (AT&T Sports Net-Rocky Mountain)