Tonight we see our Utah Jazz (11-8) try to go for the elusive fifth win in a row. Their opponent tonight? The Miami Heat (6-12) who are playing in their second game of a back-to-back, their third game in four nights, and their fifth game in seven. Both teams aren’t bringing their best players to this battle. Utah will be without starters George Hill (PG), Rodney Hood (SG), and Derrick Favors (PF/C). And they’ll continue to be without bench swag artist Alec Burks (SG/PG). Those are four of their top eight guys. That’s tough to compete without. Miami will be without starters Chris Bosh (PF/C), Justise Winslow (SF), and Josh Richardson (SG/SF). Furthermore, they’ll also be without bench pariah Dion Waiters (SG).
Two teams heading in different directions unified by their collective roster struggle right now.
Miami, in the last six days beat the Memphis Grizzlies, lost to the Memphis Grizzlies, lost to the Boston Celtics, and beat the Denver Nuggets. Utah lost four games in a row and more recently, won four in a row by an average margin of +20.00 ppg. Of course, they had Hill and Hood. Not so for tonight.
Miami and Utah split the season series last year -- both winning at home. Earlier this season the Jazz beat the Heat in Miami 102-91. (Utah was hella injured then too.) Overall, Miami is 9-21 in Utah. And the Jazz hold the 35-24 record in head-to-head.
Marquee Match-Up: Hassan Whiteside vs. Rudy Gobert
Really, you knew that this would be the situation tonight, even if everyone was healthy. Right now Miami has no answer for Gordon Hayward. And I don’t think anyone is circling the calendar to watch Goran Dragic and George Hill trade blows. It’s about the bigmen here. As it should be.
- Whiteside (18 games, 32.7 mpg) is averaging 17.7 ppg, 15.1 rpg, 2.6 bpg, 0.8 apg, and 0.8 spg.
- Gobert (19 games, 31.0 mpg) is averaging 11.1 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 2.5 bpg, 1.0 apg, and 0.6 spg.
In the previous game this season Rudy won the battle in the middle, and the Jazz won the game. If Miami is going to even up the score, it’ll be primarily because they win this match-up.
X-Factor: Someone stepping up
Someone is going to step up for one of these two teams tonight. It could be a Joe Johnson or a Luke Babbitt. But with both teams missing three starters it’s pretty darn clear that one guy stepping up off the bench could make a huge difference. Personally? This would be a great time for Dante Exum or Trey Lyles to show that they can help a team when called upon.
Prediction: Jazz win
It’s going to be ugly, but they’ll get it done.