The Chicago Bulls (7-4) are coming off an impressive win in which they went into Portland and dominated the Trail Blazers from start to finish. The Utah Jazz (7-5) are coming off of a tough home loss against Memphis Grizzlies. Here are five things to watch for in tonight’s matchup.
1. I’m sure you’ve heard, but the Utah Jazz have some injuries to key players.
It was made known yesterday that Derrick Favors has been dealing with a bone contusion in his knee.
The Jazz aren't providing a specific timetable on Derrick Favors, but Quin Snyder said he will be out "for while"— Tony Jones (@tribjazz) November 17, 2016
Alec Burks is still out. Rodney Hood missed Monday’s game against Memphis due to an illness. George Hill has missed the last 5 games with a sprained right thumb.
George Hill is out tonight. That will be game six in a row that he's missed— Tony Jones (@tribjazz) November 17, 2016
Let’s assume that Hood is on a minutes restriction in recovering from his illness. That basically puts the team without three of its starters. Guys have got to step up. It’s getting really old saying that. I’m being a downer because my optimism on injuries has not really worked well so far this season. Maybe being a downer will have the opposite effect. Heavy sigh.
2. How will Rudy Gobert respond to last game’s 4th quarter benching?
Rudy picked up a couple of dumb fouls in the latter stages of Monday’s contest against the Grizzlies and was subsequently benched for the rest of the game. He even attempted a Stephen Curry mouthpiece chuck, but instead of hurling it to the sideline and hitting a court side fan in the face, Rudy spiked it to the floor. It sat on the floor for the next possession and then a water boy went and picked it up. Rudy suddenly disappeared — to the bench.
Quin Snyder could have been sending Rudy a message: We need you in these games, Rudy — Don’t pick up stupid fouls, Rudy — Boris Diaw and Trey Lyles are better defenders and rebounders than you, Rudy. All sarcasm aside, let’s hope that the message has been well-received and we can watch Rudy dominate the paint tonight. He will need to do so if the Jazz are to secure a home victory.
3. Where in the world is Joe Johnson?
After Joe’s incredible opening night performance in Portland, it seems as though his minutes have been kept low as well as his influence on the game. If Hood is to sit out again tonight I think that Joe Johnson needs to be the guy to step up and fill the scoring void that is left. I’d love to see Joe get 25+ minutes tonight with both Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert on the floor and go for 15-20 points.
4. Gordon Hayward has a lot on his shoulders tonight.
Assuming that Hill and Hood are out, can Gordon Hayward return to form? Monday’s game was a bit eye opening for me. Without those two players, lanes were much tighter for Hayward. There was less room coming off of screens and hand-offs. There were less open looks. Up until Monday, the game had looked almost effortless for him. I think that he knew he needed to assume a bigger scoring role Monday and he pressed. He forced some shots he hadn’t been forcing. He was not efficient and he didn’t shoot well. Look for Hayward to be more relaxed tonight and take the opportunities to score that are given to him rather than force them to happen.
5. Trey Lyles will again be asked to fill a frontcourt void.
As he was forced to do last season, Trey will be given an opportunity to grow and develop by filling in for an injured frontcourt teammate. This paid huge dividends for the team and for Trey. He grew quickly and showed great potential. He is right back in that role early this season with Favors’ injury.
Trey hasn’t been shooting it well so far, but he clearly has had the green light. It will be interesting to watch how aggressive he is when playing with the first unit (well, what’s left of it). He’ll be asked to defend Taj Gibson, Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic. Gibson and Portis have similar games; bruisers and rebounders. Mirotic couldn’t be more different than those two. He’ll be around the perimeter looking for his shot. Let’s hope Trey can hold his own on this end of the floor and shoot it efficiently tonight. Go Jazz!