The Utah Jazz are riding high in the saddle with five wins in a row. These were well earned wins, but they came with some help. Especially last week where the New York Knicks, Houston Rockets, and Detroit Pistons were all playing in the second night of a back to back. Utah was able to dispatch them and climb to a 16-16 record at home, which is good. Why? Well, this week the Utah Jazz play two more home games, and they will need every advantage they can get:
Games this Week:
N.B. The Lakers are playing later on tonight, but I don't have enough time to worry about their actual record right now. They are playing the Atlanta Hawks tonight, so I expect a loss.
Game 1: Charlotte Hornets (29-35) @ Utah Jazz (29-36)
This is game four of five on this home stand for the Jazz. The Hornets and the Jazz basically have the same record. This is the "proof in the pudding" game for a team build around Big Al Jefferson, Mo Williams and Marvin Williams vs. one build around the C4 - Enes Kanter + Rudy Gobert. Don't be surprised if our young guys win this game. Charlotte has something to play for, and this is their first game on a five game road trip. They'll play @ Jazz, @ Clippers, @ Kings, @ Timberwolves, and @ Bulls -- five games in eight nights. It's not a dangerous road trip, but we can assume that they'll lose the LAC game. They just recently (as in this last week) lost to the Sacramento Kings and beat the Chicago Bulls -- both at home. So I don't know what to make of this team. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games, their only losses coming to the Celtics, Wizards, and Kings. And really, they've beaten the Bulls twice in the last 10 games. One factor that could prove severe could be injuries.
But Al Jefferson and Cody Zeller are questionable for the Jazz game. Big Al has missed the last game right a right knee strain, and Zeller missed the last two with a right shoulder sprain. Head coach Steve Clifford has been forced to start Bismack Biyombo, but he's not playing a lot of minutes. The Hornets go small, and use a lot of faster players (for the position they are placed in) and personally, that could cause the Jazz problems. For reals. I don't know how well this team would match up against a Mo Williams, Kemba Walker, Lance Stephenson, Marvin Williams, Jason Maxiell lineup.I don't actually know if they've used that lineup before, but if you are going small against Utah I don't see why you don't go really small . . .
I'm not particularly afraid of Gerald Henderson, but I've heard lots of great things about MIchael Kidd-Gilchrist this season. Mo Williams is scoring quite a lot lately, and Kemba (who dropped 20 on the Jazz earlier this season) is back. They have guards for days. In a world where Big Al and Cody Zeller are out -- they better. Cause they're coming into Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert 's house.
If Utah can control the boards, control the pace of place, and avoid turn overs, then it could be really bad for the Hornets. If Big Al returns it will be fun to see how his offensive abilities goes up against solid post defenders and length. (After all, there's a reason why he sets up his shots to avoid contact . . . it's because he doesn't have the length and athleticism to be a real power player.)
I'm high on the Jazz right now, and calling this a win.
Game 2: Washington Wizards (38-28) @ Utah Jazz (29-36)
This is the last game of the five game home stand, and the first night of a back to back set for the Jazz. It's also the first game on the road for the Wizards as well. (Last week the Jazz were getting teams on the end of their road trips, this week it's the beginning.) The Wizards play @ Jazz, @ Clippers, @ Kings, and @ Warriors before returning home, four games in six nights. Again, not really deadly by the time frame, but they are definitely looking at the Jazz game as a game they need to win. Also unlike most of the teams this last week, the Wizard are actually playing for something -- playoff position.
Washington lost six games in a row before this current sequence where they've gone 5 wins in 7 games. They've handled the Pistons, Heat, Hornets, Grizzlies, and Kings. They play at home, hosting the Trail Blazers, before flying to Utah. There is no denying it, John Wall is a beat -- and a Top 10 MVP candidate in my book. Bradley Beal is an excellent three point shooter, Paul Pierce knows where to get his shots from, and they have some size inside with Nene and Marcin Gortat. They are a well balanced team, the only thing that can really push them out of balance is injuries.
Kris Humphries is hurt right now, and has missed the last 8 games. Nene has missed the last two games for personal reasons. Garrett Temple has missed the last two games with a right hamstring injury. All three are questionable for Monday's game against Portland. If Nene doesn't go on this road trip our lives get a little easier.
Of note, they have signed Toure' Murry, and I'm sure he'd like to have a revenge game on the Jazz, so watch for that.
I love how the Jazz are playing right now, but if Washington is healthy and motivated they may be able to get on on the Jazz. I'm going to call this a loss. Mainly because our team is susceptible to losing to a team based on an overpowering performance from a single player. And I fear John Wall that much. I'd love to be wrong though.
Game 3: Utah Jazz (29-36) @ Los Angeles Lakers (17-47)
This game will be the second night of a back to back, after I am assuming, a loss to the Wizards. The Lakers got the Jazz' goat in SLC, this game should be payback. No Kobe Bryant. No Steve Nash. No Julius Randle. No Nick Young. No Ronnie Price -- where have I heard this before? The Lakers are 4-6 in their last 10, with victories over the Celtics, Jazz, Bucks, and Pistons. All the "good teams" have handled them.
If Utah wants to upgrade their place they need to handle the Lakers too. LA will be rested, having been off since the 16th (two full nights off), so I would expect Nick Young back, at least. They have a legion of people who exist only to annoy, like Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer, Jordan Hill, Wayne Ellington, Jordan Clarkson, Tarik Black, Ed Davis, and Jabari Brown. Wesley Johnson is okay, but still a Lakers player, so maybe he sucks too on the inside? I don't know. Between now and the Jazz game the Lakers play the Hawks and Warriors, and those should be two more losses. Will the Jazz win, and push LA to 50 losses? I hope so.
This better be a win.
Game 4: Utah Jazz (29-36) @ Golden State Warriors (53-13)
Uh, these guys again? The Jazz have played the Dubs three times already this season, two losses and a win. If the Jazz win this one then, well, that's a really special feeling. The Warriors have the West locked up, I don't think any team is going to catch them. That said, this game will be their 5th game on a 6 game home stand. I think they'll be nearly invincible by this stage unless they are resting guys.
I suspect this to be a loss.
So I have the Jazz going 2-2 over the next week. It's okay to disagree with me, but I want to be a little conservative at this point.