Fresh off an 87-74 victory against the Orlando Magic last night the Utah Jazz (6-4) travel to the southernmost tip of the NBA to take on the Miami Heat (2-5). The Jazz are currently 3-1 on the Early-Season East Coast Trip of Death™ and have a really solid chance to go to 4-1 on the trip and 7-4 on the season with a win against the Heat tonight. The Jazz have been playing juuust well enough to win games considering the squad is still not at full strength. George Hill (thumb) is OUT tonight. Boris Diaw (leg) has been upgraded to QUESTIONABLE. Alec Burks (leg, bad luck) is still out indefinitely.
Miami is currently on a 3 game losing streak and have lost five of their last six games. Taking a glance at their schedule so far their two wins came against below-average teams and their five losses came against above average teams. This leads me to believe that Miami is better than their record suggests, though not by much. They will play without their starting point guard Goran Dragic who is still out with an ankle injury. Miami played two nights ago at home vs the Chicago Bulls in the return of Dwyane Wade. Miami lost the game 98-95 despite a monster 20 PT/20 REB game from Hassan Whiteside.
This Miami team will be very different to match up with seeing as they no longer have known Jazz killer Dwyane Wade. Hassan Whiteside is the heir apparent to the Miami throne. Having recently signed a $100 million contract to stay in South Beach the 7-footer Whiteside is averaging 17.9 points and 14.7 rebounds per game. He is a force with which to be reckoned. At times a meteor crashing into the court is more likely than Whiteside accumulating an assist during the game. Beyond Whiteside Miami has a support from young players like Tyler Johnson, Justise Winslow, and Dion Waiters. There will be some interesting matchups from positions 1-5.
Speaking of matchups, here’s the projected starting matchup:
- Dante Exum vs. Tyler Johnson
- Rodney Hood vs. Dion Waiters
- Gordon Hayward vs. Justise Winslow
- Derrick Favors vs. Luke Babbit
- Rudy Gobert vs Hassan Whiteside
Maybe it’s just the Kool-aid talking but I think the Jazz have a clear advantage at positions 1 through 4. Where things get really interesting is at the 5 spot which also happens to be our Marquee Matchup
Marquee Match-Up: Rudy Gobert vs. Hassan Whiteside
Whiteside is perhaps the most common comparison for Rudy Gobert. They are both freakishly athletic for their respective 7’+ sizes and are seen as primarily defensive juggernauts. Almost any time there is a Rudy Gobert highlight on twitter someone from Miami is quick to throw a “Whiteside better” in the comments. Last season there was a bit of a snafu as many suggested Rudy threw some shade at Whiteside during a twitter conversation with Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic and and Evan Fournier. Whiteside can have some insane stat-lines but Gobert puts winning first and foremost. It is always a treat to see these two bigs battle each other.
X-Factor: Rest (again)
The Jazz are in the final leg of their 5-game trip to the east coast. They have seemed gassed the past couple of games and have been settling for a lot of long jumpers. Miami has an extra day’s rest and no travel to their advantage going into tonight’s game. The Jazz are missing several players to injury while the Heat are only missing Dragic. With fewer eligible players and no rest Utah will need to shoot well to come out with a win tonight.
Prediction: Jazz Buzzer-Beater Win
Finishing off this road trip 4-1 would be a dream. But it would be too easy, perhaps, to suggest that the Jazz would arrive at this conclusion comfortably. This is going to be a tough game on tired legs. Shooting is paramount; you won’t outhustle the Heat at home. That is why I’m doing my best Babe Ruth impression and calling this shot right now. Free-throw line extended, left side, Rodney Hood.
*walks off wrong side of stage*