The Utah Jazz start off their third extended Eastern Conference road trip before the All-Star game this afternoon with an MLK Day match-up against the struggling Charlotte Hornets. Both teams have had injuries. They've both been missing a starter for the entire season -- Dante and MKG. Both teams are missing an impressive bigman in D-Favs and Big Al. And lots of guys on both squads are playing a little dinged up as well. But these teams look like they are heading in different directions. The bugs are 1-9 in their last 10 games, while the Jazz are 5-5. Utah is getting healthier and Charlotte is still in rehab mode. Furthermore, the Jazz are getting impressive outings from new players, while the Hornets are only surviving on the efforts of vets Walker, Batum, Mar-V-P, and Lin. This is going to be an interesting game between two young teams. Though I can't help but think like the Jazz are playing a little better right now.
The Hornets are 13th in ORTG (105.1 Points per 100.0 Poss) and 14th in DRTG (104.4 Points per 100.0 Poss). The Bugs play at the 15th fastest pace in the league at 95.7 possessions per game. They are middle of the road in actual PPG (101.1 ppg, 17th), but keep things kind of tight on defense (100.4 ppg, 14th). On defense they don't foul much, and they really kick butt on their defensive glass. Though, they don't force a lot of turn overs -- but a key part of their defense seems to be forcing teams into bad shots. On offense they lead the league in taking care of the ball, and not turning the ball over. They are awful on the offensive glass, but take a whole lot of threes. They are "okay" from downtown at 34.4%, but average 29.2 shots from downtown every night. That's ridiculous. Oh, and in case this team wasn't dangerous enough, they get to the line a lot at home, and for the season they are shooting 78.4 FT%.
They are bugs, especially with Big Al out. But they have just as many wins as we do, even if they are 1-9 in their last 10 games.
G-Time against Batum is the marquee match-up if you ask me. I'm really impressed, surprised even, with Batum's play this year. I thought he wouldit in Charlotte, but dude is motivated after getting traded. He's hurting the other team out there every night.
Injuries hurt both teams in terms of depth. Lin against Burke should be interesting. Psycho T isn't really a small forward, so expect some more Troy Daniels here.
Injuries / Absences:
Everyone is out, except Lamb who I think is very likely to play even if he missed the last game. I'm not going to be holding my breath for Derrick until the team lands in New York, but we'll see. I'll try to update all of this closer to game time. But man, Big Al isn't having a good season at all this year.used to average 12 and 6. (Not kidding, look it up.)
I think the Jazz should win this game, even while missing two starters in Derrick and Dante.