Yes, it’s almost time to watch the Utah Jazz (0-1) again, this time against regional rivals down south -- the Phoenix Suns (1-0). Last season the Jazz swept the Suns 4-0 in the regular season, thanks in part to some really inspired play by Utah.
Things are probably going to be different tonight, after all, it’s only the preseason. Also, the Utah Jazz are sitting Derrick Favors, Rodney Hood, and Alec Burks. (Deets here!) Of course, the Suns aren’t playing everyone either, we’re not going to be seeing P.J. Tucker (low back microdescectomy). I’d be surprised if some more players didn’t sit out either.
As it currently stands the starting line-ups are aligned as such:
PG: George Hill vs. Eric Bledsoe
SG: Dante Exum vs. Devin Booker
SF: Gordon Hayward vs. Jared Dudley
PF: Boris Diaw vs. T.J. Warren
C: Rudy Gobert vs. Tyson Chandler
Honestly, that seems pretty even to me. Booker will make Exum run and run and run through screens on defense, but Exum is quick enough and long enough to not make it matter much. Hill is a veteran defender who knows how to handle someone like Bledsoe. Or at least, contain him for the 15-20 minutes he may play. (Against the San Antonio Spurs he played 17:56)
Against San Antone the Suns were able to get to the line and make the other team may early and often. Bledsoe, Booker, Chandler, Alan Williams, Marquese Chriss, and Leandro Barbosa didn’t miss once — going a combined 23 for 23 against the greybeards. Utah is “known” for fouling, so this could be a long night for our guys.
Also in their first preseason game, Phoenix had a very balanced scoring attack, with seven players scoring 8 or more points. As a point of direct comparison, the sloppy (19 turn overs, 17 assists) Jazz only had five players score at least 8 points. But that’s kind of always been the case, the Suns can light you on fire with their offense. It’s going to be up to the Jazz to make sure they aren’t ALWAYS playing on offense.
That means taking care of the boards and the ball. They did one of those two things in their first game, a 98-89 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. Hopefully they worked on things on the off-day.
I’m comfortable saying that at this point it’s clear that Gordon Hayward should be the best player on the court tonight. But it’s not even going to be about that. It’s going to be about finding some sort of flow with all the new parts. Yes, Phoenix has many as well — but they aren’t expected to contend for home court in the first round of the playoffs, let alone make it there. Utah is.
Joe Johnson has to find his place in this pass heavy offense. Boris Diaw needs to work his way back into shape. Those two were -22 and -12 in +/- last game. I’m not pointing fingers here, but the data is. They didn’t make up for their defensive problems with their 2 combined points. Maybe playing against their old club will ignite something for them?