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Jazz need to finish strong, dominate the glass against DeMarcus Cousins

Utah Jazz (34-42) @ Sacramento Kings (26-49)
Sleep Train Arena • Sacramento, CA
7:00 p.m. (MT) • TV: ROOT Sports • Radio: 1280 AM / 97.5 FM

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight the Utah Jazz need to keep looking forward and be mentally ready to play the second night of a back to back. Last night was a heartbreaking loss in Phoenix, tonight they tip off in Sacramento, game 77 of 82. Such is the grind in the NBA. (Also the grind for the media who cover sports, man, how much XP do I have as a blogger? Do I get an Epic mount yet?) The Sacramento Kings present a significant challenge, as it's a home and home set; and historically the Jazz have split this against the Kings. But a bigger challenge than schedule quirks and history will be DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins will be playing this game without Darren Collison or Rudy Gay. So their big three is down to a big one, and as ones go, Cousins' 24.1 ppg, 12.7 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1.5 spg, and 1.8 bpg are pretty big. The other challenge is that, yes, two of three best players are out -- but for the most part their replacement player minions are more productive than ours. But that may just be a George Karl philosophy, have a bunch of good scrubs and a few really great players . . . Quin Snyder seems to want a number of high level players, with maybe one approaching greatness. Or at least, that's what the numbers divine:

Kings players:

2014 2015 Game 077 UTA at SAC - Kings Players

Since they sent Jason Thompson to the bench they've been getting more and more from Carl Landry. But without Collison and Gay they have much less firepower. Karl has also been starting Ray McCallum and pairing him with Ben McLemore to start games, leaving Andre Miller and Nik Stauskas off the bench. Three of those four are 23 or younger. So if there is inexperience to attack that's where it will be. (You know, if we had guards that attacked the other team...) If Cousins can get into foul trouble this game becomes a lot easier; however, we've lost to them without Cousins before.

For the most part, all of their dudes can hit threes, and we've seen how that works in a playoff series against Karl before. Omri Casspi will do enough to make Gordon Hayward work on both sides of the ball; but I speak for myself when I predict that Sim Bhullar, on a 10 day, will get his first NBA minutes tonight. Sure, Reggie Evans and Ryan Hollins are more experienced; but you've got nothing left to discover from those two. I think Karl will want to evaluate SimCity against the Jazz bigs. And if not today, then on Wednesday for sure . . .

Jazz players:

2014 2015 Game 077 UTA at SAC - Jazz Players

Utah will once again be without Alec Burks, but everyone else could be back. Trey Burke is questionable with his back issue, I guess tired from carrying the bench for so long by himself while one of Gordon Hayward or Rodney Hood has been out. Both of those guys are back, and I suspect Hood should get the start. (I didn't color that part in) Hood missed the game winner yesterday night (while getting fouled), but his shooting will be huge tonight. But more than the outside shooting the Jazz bigs need to be equal or greater to the task of dealing with Cousins.

For whatever reason Enes Kanter used to get his goat, but those two Kentucky players aren't playing tonight. Rudy Gobert is huge and knows how to stay out of foul trouble, but that will be tested tonight. Derrick Favors will have to get out on defense and deal with all of the Kings' stretch-y-ness on offense. Landry, Derrick Williams, Jason Thompson, and Cousins all can face up. Alternatively, the Jazz have the talented big advantage if you include Trevor Booker and The Hammer Jack Cooley. Actually, I don't know. The Kings bigs are why they even win games -- and their roster seems to boast like 8 or 9 dudes who are either PFs or Cs.

An interesting quirk about these two teams is that while they are trying to get better and leave the lottery, the Jazz are just plain much younger. The Kings have some young guys, but nothing like that Jazz. Dante Exum, at some point in this game is going to be checked by Andre Miller. Miller is 19 years and nearly four months older than Dante. Which, as Basketball John pointed out on twitter, is essentially:

I find that hilarious.

I'd love for the Jazz to come out and win this game. If the DeMarcus domino falls the rest of the Kings should go quietly. Rudy Gay is likely to play on Wednesday, this making life so much harder for us; but he is going to miss this one (concussion -- are we seeing a lot more of these called? I appreciate and support that. TBI is horrible.). Utah can win if they make Andre Miller shoot from the outside, and goad the Kings into playing big. If Trey Burke plays he should be filled with a little more energy as he didn't play last night, and at the very least, gives the team another scorer off the bench; something they didn't have last night in Phoenix when they lost by 2.

As the good guys over at Sactown Royalty tell us, it's "Sauce Castillo" Night. So that in itself is awesome. Also check out their preview because of their pregame limerick. I love that they do fun community things like that.

The Kings fans are good people who deserve a team. Vivek makes that a possibility, even if he has no idea how to make a good team.