One: Free Throw Shooting
In the first game of the season against the Portland Trailblazers the Utah Jazz shot a perfect 16-16 from the free throw line. However, in their win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday the Jazz went 28-40 on free throws for a paltry 70%. If there's one thing we know about the Los Angeles Clippers it's that they will visit the free throw stripe a lot courtesy of their relentless gnashing and wailing. In their one and only game this season they shot 46 free throws. Now, their FT% in that game was only 69% but that equates to 32 points from the free throw line.
The Jazz won't make it to the free throw line as much as the Clippers today. That's a bet we'd all be willing to make. If the Jazz don't attempt as many free throws as the Clippers they will at least need to shoot a higher percentage which should be attainable.
Two: Guard Play
In the first two games this season George Hill has showed up. I think I saw Shelvin Mack on Friday and as for Dante Exum I believe a missing person report has already been filed. Sure, Hill has the benefit of being the starter and taking the bulk of PG minutes in each game. However, the PER 36 stats for these three guards are very telling.
Hill: 20.4 PTS, 2.4 REB, 4.4 AST, 6.3 FTA, .846 FT%
Mack: 12.6 PTS, 4.9 REB, 4.9 AST, 1.9 FTA, .500 FT%
Exum: 10.8 PTS, 2.4 REB, 2.4 AST, 3.6 FTA, 1.000 FT%
Hill is clearly playing like the starter here. Mack's numbers are decent for a backup point guard. Exum is certainly getting to the free throw line a lot more than he did as a rookie but it's going to take a while before we can be sure of what he is capable of doing. In order to counteract LAC's stellar guard play from Chris Paul and Austin Rivers (haha, I couldn't type that second one with laughing) the Jazz will need improvements from just about every spot on the PG depth chart (here's looking at you, Raul Neto).
Three: Favors Workload
Friday's home game was the first game Derrick Favors played since the first game of the preseason. He was on a minutes restriction but made the most of the time he was allotted. In 20 minutes against the Lakers he had 15 PTS, 9 REB, 2 BLK, 2 STL, and 1 AST. He did also have 5 TOV which is troublesome but the rest of his numbers were sensational for only playing 20 minutes. He is battling through IT Band Syndrome which is a really nagging injury that can take months to subside.
Expect Favors to still be on a minutes restriction today. The odds are high that he will be right around the 20 minute mark again. If he can be as productive as last game while cutting down the turnovers the Jazz stand to make this a close game in LA.
Four: The Diaw-Lyles Conundrum
Boris Diaw has started at the 4 for the Jazz the first two games of the season. Trey Lyles has been coming off the bench. Neither of them has looked stellar and many are beginning to question if their roles should be reversed. Diaw has not been up to snuff vs. our opponents' starting PF's this season. Lyles has been timid in shooting the ball and his confidence isn't likely to be bolstered by Utah's second unit.
With Derrick Favors on a minutes restriction and not likely to start, one of the aforementioned big men is going to have to match up with Blake Griffin. If the preseason is any indication Diaw will have a very tough time keeping up with Griffin. Here's to hoping Quin Snyder can make the necessary adjustments to get the most out of Diaw and Lyles (and everyone else on the roster tbh).
Five: Home Cooking!
Oh great, the Jazz are on the road for another team's home opener! As this game will be in the Staples Center you can expect the crowd to be a very excited mix of LAC/LAL/GSW fans. Sarcasm aside, it is never fun to be on the road for another team's home opener. Tuesday saw the Jazz get overwhelmed by the very hyped Trailblazers at the Moda Center.
You can be certain that the Clippers are going to get a lopsided amount of calls today. That's life in the NBA. That's life for the Jazz. Will the Jazz be able to withstand the onslaught of Chris Paul cheapshots and Steve Ballmer fist pumps? Time will tell.
Author's note: REXdunk reserves the right talk about Chris Paul cheapshots any time the Clippers are being discussed.