The Utah Jazz (2-1) start off the home tilt of the preseason with a rematch against the Phoenix Suns (1-2). Last time they met in the preseason, the Jazz bested the Suns behind a strong 21-10-3 game from Rudy Gobert, his 93% free throw shooting (!!!), and this vicious slam:
It never gets old.
The Jazz will play the for a second time without Gordon Hayward. On Monday, they struggled a bit without his leadership, barely managing to get a scrappy two-point win after being up 12 midway through the second quarter. With Hayward, Favors, and Burks out, Rodney Hood broke out of his preseason slump with 17 points on 7 of 9 shooting.
Phoenix is coming off of a close loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday in the Moda Center. It’s hard to say Phoenix was the better of the two teams, preseason notwithstanding. Losing by 5 after leading by 8 in the 4th, giving up 20 points to Shabazz Napier and 14 rebounds to Noah Vonleh, all while shooting 56% on free throws, isn’t a great recipe for success. However, you can’t say Phoenix’s future isn’t bright: Devin Booker scored 34 (!!) on 15 of 23 shooting, while rookie Marquese Chriss laid down 16 points and 8 rebounds.
The Jazz should still be able to handle the Suns, right? Let’s take a look at the projected starting lineups for each team:
- George Hill vs. Eric Bledsoe
- Rodney Hood vs. Devin Booker
- Joe Johnson vs. Jared Dudley
- Boris Diaw vs T.J. Warren
- Rudy Gobert vs Tyson Chandler
In the last match-up, Phoenix head coach Earl Watson was forced to change up his frontcourt against the Jazz’s French connection: Dudley was slightly injured and Chandler took a break for ‘personal reasons.’ Instead, recent lottery picks Marquese Chriss and Alex Len were taken advantage of by Utah’s more developed front court. Chandler is back and Dudley is health, so we’ll see if Rudy and co. can still dominate the paint. However, the real competition will continue to be in the backcourt. One fun matchup will be between potential Sixth Man of the Year candidate Brandon Knight and the Australian youngster Dante Exum. Both are players who would probably start on most teams, but both are players who are very good at either offense or defense, but not both. But the most attention will probably be on the matchup between the two up and coming shooting guards, Devin Booker and Rodney Hood.
Marquee Match-Up: Devin Booker vs. Rodney Hood
Rodney was hurt in the first matchup between these two teams, and Devin wasn’t able to get much going on Hood’s replacement, Exum, in the last game. Rodney’s been on and off throughout this preseason, though, so we’ll have to see who shows up with their guns blazing and defense on point.
X-Factor: Lineups and Matchups
We have yet to see Quin really fiddle around with the lineups - Joel Bolomboy and Chris Johnson played well in the last quarter minutes against the Clippers, but haven’t played more than 20 minutes total, each, this preseason. Eric Dawson, Quincy Ford, and Henry Sims haven’t seen any time at all, and Marcus Paige deserves a mention here too. Perhaps we’ll see them tonight? Will Earl Watson unearth such names as Gracin Bakumanya, Derek Cooke Jr., or Shaquille Harrison?
Prediction: Jazz Win
Even though the Jazz may continue to be without Hayward, Favors, and Burks, they’ll come out strong in the first home game of the preseason and beat a team they already beat earlier in the preseason.