The Utah Jazz (7-5) are back in action tonight after finally getting a couple days off coming off that brutal stretch of 6 games in 6 different cities in 9 nights. Unfortunately, as you’ll see in the injury report, the time off didn’t do a whole lot in regards to the hopeful return of some key players.
After triple checking the schedule, I can indeed confirm that the Jazz are playing on national television tonight. Moreover, they’re actually playing on TNT, which is widely regarded as the marquee matchups of the week in the league. While it’s cool for the team to get this exposure it does come with its drawbacks. Namely, the game doesn’t start until 8:30 p.m. MT (That’s a stark 10:30 p.m. start time for you eastern folks). For me, personally, it’s worth the late night for the cool experience of seeing my team on TNT.
Utah will be going up against a Chicago Bulls team that has been somewhat of a surprise this season so far at 7-4. After bringing in Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo in free agency, many fans and talking heads alike were puzzled about where the scoring would come from with their lineups. While they had a lot of decent finishers and some good defenders, their roster seemed devoid of shooters, and the spacing was projected to be next to none.
Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade are the unquestioned leaders of this Chicago team and they’ve done adequately in addressing the shooting concerns. Butler is currently shooting 44.7% from 3 with a 53.9 eFG% and a 28.6 PER. Wade has been a shocker from deep this year, shooting 3.1 3-pointers per game at a 35.3% clip. If he were to sustain those numbers for the season, his percentage would shatter his career high and his 3-point attempt rate would be his highest since the 2009-10 season. Defensively, this game will begin and end with guarding those two.
Alec Burks (Rehab) — OUT
Derrick Favors (L. knee contusion) — OUT
George Hill (Sprained thumb) — OUT
Rodney Hood (Illness) — Should play
Rajon Rondo (Ankle) — Doubtful
Doug McDermott (Concussion) — OUT
Michael Carter-Williams (Knee) — OUT
Everything is awful, we are all slowly dying, and eventually the sun will be extinguished and none of this will matter as the world ends. On the plus side, we’re probably going up against Chicago’s third string point guard tonight, as Rondo was unable to practice yesterday with the ankle injury.
Dante Exum vs. Jerian Grant
Rodney Hood vs. Dwyane Wade
Gordon Hayward vs. Jimmy Butler
Boris Diaw vs. Taj Gibson
Rudy Gobert vs. Robin Lopez
With the way that Diaw has played so far this season, I may have stuck with Trey Lyles in the starting lineup. However, having Lyles come off the bench does give some scoring punch to the second unit. Let’s hope Diaw can pick it up because he’s been bad.
Marquee Match-Up: Gordon Hayward vs. Jimmy Butler
This is a contest between two of the top-ten small forwards in the NBA. It’s one of those games where Hayward will be expected to maintain his offensive contributions while drawing the toughest defensive assignment of the night. Butler is dominating on offense this season, averaging 24.5 points per game on stellar 3-point shooting and shooting a crazy 9.2 free throws per game, where he’s shooting 90%.
If Hayward can get his 3-point shot to start dropping it will go a long way toward winning this matchup, as he’s shot a measly 24.3% from deep this season. The fact that he’s still averaging 22.5 points despite his shooting woes is impressive in and of itself. Getting to the line has helped him, as has the fact that he’s just not missing from the stripe, shooting 97.3% from the line on just over 6 free throws per game. If he can attack Butler and perhaps get him in foul trouble, that’s just gravy on this matchup.
X-Factor: Dante Exum
Exum should be able to eat with his matchup in this game. We were again reminded of his exciting flashes of potential Monday night when he made some electric plays against Memphis. Behold:
Prediction: JAZZ WIN!
This is our time to make a mark on the national NBA viewership. In particular, I expect Gordon Hayward to come out tonight and validate to the casual basketball viewer all the good things being said and written about him. The Jazz defense clamps down on Chicago; Utah wins 98-89.