The Utah Jazz are 2-0 this preseason with decisive victories against the Los Angeles Lakers, one a 19 win, the other a solid three point overtime victory. Both games were on the road. The Jazz try to make it three in a row and earn a road warrior nickname by taking it to the valley of the sun. Or more specifically, the Phoenix Suns. These guys are 1-0 based on a 4 point win at home over the Sacramento Kings. On one hand I think it's cool that these four Western Conference lotto teams have so far played one another. I can imagine the four of them being somewhat clumped together down the stretch in the Western Conference standings . . . obviously with the Jazz at the top. But before we get there the team has to play tonight. And when you are playing the Suns you are playing a team that knows the Jazz pretty well.
The Suns are run by head coach Antonio Lang, an assistant on Quin Snyder's bench, was drafted by the Suns and played there too! Though, there's very little continuity between the Suns of the early 90s and the ones our team will face tonight., who played for both franchises and was an assistant with the Jazz for years. Furthermore, this season former Jazz point guard is an assistant coach. Also, just for kicks, is a back-up point guard for Phoenix this season. So together they should have a pretty good handle on our old playbook, and more importantly, our players. Hornacek and Jazz star are quite close. Earl Watson, form the Kansas City area, is also quite close to -- who hails from the same parts.Of course, the consanguinity goes both ways.
So let's take a look at these teams, and who may match up with one another.
- Markieff Morris vs.
- Gordon Hayward vs. P.J. Tucker
- Alec Burks vs. Eric Bledsoe
(INJ) (day off) vs. Brandon Knight
In a perfect world, Dante would be playing and Trey and Raul would be coming off the bench. This is far from a perfect world. Trey is getting the night off as well, moving Neto up into the starting line-up for tonight according to sources. Bledsoe, a fantastic point guard, will share the ball with Brandon Knight. Playing against two 1 / 2 players makes the Suns have an inherently difficult backcourt. Both are dangerous with the ball and have improved their three point shots over the years. I'm no a P.J. Tucker fan, but he does have the necessary range and versatility to start for Hornacek. Morris is more of a skills player than Favors, but Favors is a beast. I get it. Morris can face up, drive, and hit threes. Favors is capable of dunking all over your team, and blocking your bigs on the other end as well.
As for Tyson against Rudy . . . this is going to be interesting if they really go at one another. At this stage we're looking at Chandler as a lower-rung expectation for Rudy. That said, he's still an amazing defender and finisher around the rim. At full strength I think Dante and Alec can give enough defensive pressure to make life less easy for Bledsoe and Knight. Tonight I think the Jazz will have to lean on Hayward and the rest of the frontline to stay ahead of their starters though. I do love what Neto brings to the club, and his defense is both aggressive and near-constant. OF course, because this is a road game in Phoenix I do expect the refs to blow more whistles against us than necessary.
The bench bigs for Phoenix don't scare anyone. Mirza Teletovic present a face-up challenge, but has been a very tall albatross in his career, and Henry Sims is a known commodity for us after so many pre-draft work outs and free agent mini-camps. (not suspended for the preseason), , , and should continue to give the Jazz an advantage inside.had a nice night in their first preseason game, and he along with
Of course, if Horny goes small -- and he pretty much as no reason not to -- we may seem moreand on the court. Those two, alongside and rookie are going to challenge , , , and . I would call it pretty much even right now -- unless Booker goes off on us, or if Hood has one of his explosive games.
The last factor in personnel is back-up point guard. Our third stringer is starting, leaving onlyto fill in the blanks. He'll be going up against and Ronnie Price -- the original Jazz dunking point guard / energy guy. Cotton knows that this is his time to shine, and he will be a fulcrum for this game. If he's pressing after sitting out of every single previous minute of action, then it could be bad. If he's able to translate his super small sample size into something very effective, the Jazz could find themselves going for that third straight road victory.
If you distill it to big three vs. big three -- the Jazz have Hayward, Favors, and Gobert going up against Bledsoe, Knight, and Morris. (I need to see more from Chandler to see if he's still part of a big three.) I do think that we're actually going to see more coaching on display, and trying out other players. Hornacek played 15 guys in the first game -- with big minutes (15 or more) going to just Morris, Bledsoe, Knight, Leuer, Teletovic, Warren, Len, Price, and Booker. Everyone else was shuttling in and out.
As a response, tonight Snyder may break out some of his guys from their mothballs . . . or maybe not. Quin doesn't seem to be predictable enough to figure out just yet.
This is probably going to be a game where the Jazz need to take some cover, the Suns shot 28 threes in their last game, and made 32% of them. They also had 20 turn overs in their last game. If the Jazz can keep up the defensive pressure through a faster pace of play, and keep the Suns from having every open shot they want, I think we could win.
I don't have the latest on who is in and who is out for tonight, aside from the Jazz being without Dante Exum and Grant Jerrett. Favors is questionable for us tonight. If he's not there we'll be down two starters. That said, I don't think Markief Morris has the mental stability to be defended by Trevor Booker for a full game.
Prediction: The recap for this game will come AFTER the recap for last game . . . which hasn't gone up yet