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Utah Jazz at Philadelphia 76ers Game Preview: Five things to watch

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Game #2: Jazz (0-1) @ 76ers (0-1)
Location: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Time: 5:00 p.m. MT
TV: ROOT Sports
Radio: 1280 AM / 97.5 FM

John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz try to get win number one of the season, and that whole monkey off their backs, tonight in game two of their three game Eastern Conference sojourn. They face off against the Philadelphia 76ers, and frankly, this should be a win. Both young clubs (UTA has an average age of 24.3, PHI has an average age of 22.8) are winless and went into Game 1 without their full set of players. For Utah, they went into Motown and played without starting point guard Dante Exum, possible 6th man Trevor Booker, and some others. It was worse for Philly, who went to Boston and got demolished -- but did so without four of their five starters (no Tony Wroten, Nik Stauskas, Robert Covington, or Joel Embiid). They were also so short-handed their back up point guard Kendall Marshall, and only actual vet Carl Landry were also out.

They have something to prove to their fans tonight in their home opener. They'll have some of those guys back. Utah also has something to prove. Let's take a look at this game in a little more detail:

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1. Recent Play

Philly lost their first game, to the Boston Celtics 112-95. It wasn't pretty, but it makes sense as the team was without 6 of their top 10 players. I don't know what we can take from that game, or even if it applies to the franchise at all. They played a pretty quick game, 100.4 possessions (11th best), but that could have just been Boston's influence. For a larger stretch of time we've come to expect Philly to have lot talent, but high energy. That is not exactly the type of system Brett Brown wants to run, but he doesn't decide on if his franchise players are injured or not. I didn't watch their game, because why would I? I'm not dismissing Philly. I think their path to the NBA Finals is a lot easier than the Utah's, but that's because the East is basically a wasteland.

Utah also lost their first game, an up and down game against the Detroit Pistons where the free-throw/foul-to-keep-the-game-alive sequence made the final margin 92-87. Utah looked defensive adept at times, but had lots of trouble with Reggie Jackson and Steve Blake in pick and roll situations. The Jazz were getting good shots, but missing them. While they didn't get as many free throws as they think they deserved I was happy to see the team roll with it and play the game instead of complaining to the refs. I'm confident that the Jazz will figure things out faster than Philly though. Both are playing without good pieces, but the Jazz are much more intact at this point in time.

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2. History:

If you guessed that this would be another team from the East that the Jazz beat up on then you are correct. Utah is 50-41 all-time against Philadelphia. It's a 31-14 home drubbing each time they are in the #801; however, the Jazz don't go out on the road and get it done. The Jazz are only 19-27 in the land of Nic Cage's National Wonder series. (That's what Philly is known for, right? No? Ron Hextall then?) Of course, the Jazz usually dominate the Pistons at home and on the road, and lost the other night. So I don't know how much you take into account 'recent' history.

The 76ers are a proud franchise, featuring such great players like Dolph Schayes, Red Kerr, George Yardley, Hal Greer, Chet Walker, Wilt Chamberlain, Billy Cunningham, Doug Collins, Julius Erving, Bobby Jones, Moses Malone, Charles Barkley, Allen Iverson, and for a while Andre Iguodala too. I don't know if any of the players on their roster right now will ever make it like those guys did. By the same token, the Jazz are far from their glorious past as well.

Here's to better futures for these two fanbases.

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3. Strategy:

Do not expect small ball tonight. Thank God. Also, expect a lot of rebounds, because I don't trust either team to shoot well. It's the first game of a back to back set for the Jazz, so they have to finish this one and then hop onto a plane. Philly probably doesn't want to lose by 20 again.

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4. Players:

The data here is just so funny, I'm going to present it without much commentary.

     2015 2016 GM 02 UTA at PHI - 76ers Player Stats

2015 2016 GM 02 UTA at PHI - Jazz Player Stats

As you can clearly see, there's a lot of holes where players stats should be. From what we do know, Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor put up some numbers, and they both are shooting the ball pretty frequently for their club. The Jazz bigs Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert do not. (This is the MPS column, or Minutes per Shot, or how many minutes they have to play before they jack on up. The smaller number shows who shoots the most. So, for the Jazz this is Rodney Hood and Alec Burks.) The bigman match-up is going to be fun tonight, especially with the return of Trevor Booker. Speaking of which . . .

A big factor tonight is going to be who is in and who is out. So here's what we know so far:

Utah Jazz:

  • Dante Exum -- still out for the season
  • Raul Neto -- will play
  • Trevor Booker -- will play
  • Jeff Withey -- should be ready to go

Philadelphia 76ers:

  • Joel Embiid -- still out for the season
  • Tony Wroten -- out till "December"
  • Kendall Marshall -- will miss rest of October
  • Nik Stauskas -- should play tonight against the Jazz
  • Robert Covington -- no timetable for return
  • Carl Landry -- not with the team, having medical examinations

So, this means the Jazz have the healthy advantage -- but we all know the team has lost games like this before. So, anything goes.

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5. X-Factors:

The team that sets the pace of play will win. If the Jazz can keep it a 90 possession game their defensive value increases. If the game is more helter-skelter then that's anyone's game.

Another factor would be the talent disparity, this goes hand-in-hand with the healthy disparity. Gordon Hayward should feast on these guys. Really. If he wants to be an All-Star this year he's going to help his case if he drops at least 20 on these guys.

As a side note, the winner of this game gets the rights to Andrei Kirilenko back. (Okay, maybe not.)

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Prediction:

The Jazz win and get out of the winless club in the Northwest Division.

2015 2016 GM 02 UTA at PHI - UTA Start

Man, even the pesky T-Wolves have a win!