Tonight, the Utah Jazz (14-10) welcome the Sacramento Kings (8-14) to The Viv for the first time this season. For the second straight time in the Jazz’s current 5-game home swing, they welcome a team coming in on the back end of a back-to-back. The Kings fell to the New York Knicks in Sacramento last night 103-100. Since it was a close, highly-contested game last night, the Kings should be nice and tired coming into this game. Which is good, because the Jazz are still the walking wounded. As you’ll see in the injury report, Hayward is probably back tonight, and maybe Rodney Hood too, but I wouldn’t count on that. So we’ll still be missing 2 or, more likely, 3 starters.
Sacramento’s favorite malcontent, DeMarcus Cousins, is tearing the world apart again, statistically. In 34.5 minutes per game, Cousins is averaging 28.8 points and 10.7 rebounds. He’s shooting 37.3% from beyond the arc, which just seems unfair considering his scoring ability down low. His productivity on the court is especially insane, considering that he doesn’t look all that invested in playing for the Kings anymore, as CBS Sports’ Matt Moore noted this morning.
I’m becoming concerned that the losing and dysfunction and has dulled Cousins’ competitive spirit. Which I don’t blame him for, at all.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) December 10, 2016
Matt’s right. At times, Boogie looks downright disinterested out there, and that’s been a big part of the Kings’ 1-4 record over their last 5 games. Even considering our current injury status, this is a game the Jazz should win.
Gordon Hayward (the finger) - Probable
Rodney Hood (hamstring) - Questionable
Derrick Favors (knee contusion) - Out
George Hill (sprained toe) - Out
Alec Burks (who knows at this point) - Out
No reported injuries
Hill is still out, but per the Salt Lake Tribune’s Tony Jones, he’s officially out of the walking boot, so... Progress?
Hill is out tonight. He's out of the walking boot but still moving very gingerly— Tony Jones (@tribjazz) December 10, 2016
Projected Starting Lineups:
Shelvin Mack vs. Darren Collison
Dante Exum vs. Ben McLemore
Gordon Hayward vs. Rudy Gay
Boris Diaw vs. DeMarcus Cousins
Rudy Gobert vs. Kosta Koufos
I’m making the assumption here that Hood will be out with that hamstring strain. I’m also assuming Mack and Exum each get the start, based off the starting lineup last time out against Golden State. However, Hayward’s return and Joe Ingles’ performance against the Dubs considered, it wouldn’t shock me if Ingles gets the start over Exum.
Marquee Matchup: Gordon Hayward vs Rudy Gay
Keep an eye on Hayward tonight. He missed the last game because he had re-aggravated his recently broken finger and it was reportedly too swollen to play. The last time he aggravated the finger, he followed that up with a week of his least productive games this season. The result was a 4-game losing streak, including the only games this season that Hayward failed to reach double-digit scoring figures.
Hopefully he can avoid a repeat performance of that post-finger-aggravation play, but he draws a tough defensive assignment tonight. While it’s up for debate whether or not Gay really helps his teams win (see: every team he leaves immediately improving) he can still score, averaging 19 points per game this season on nearly 50% effective field goal percentage. Fully healthy, Hayward wins this matchup 9 times out of 10, but we’ll see what happens tonight.
X-Factor: Jazz Bench
Thursday night against the Warriors, we saw what the Utah bench is capable of. Missing 4 of our 5 regular starters, there was a point halfway through the 4th quarter that the all-bench Jazz cut the deficit to 5. Gobert, the one remaining regular starter, scored 20 points, which means Utah’s regular bench scored 79 points Thursday night. They also held the offensive-powerhouse Warriors to 106 (though Gobert probably had a fair deal to do with that). Ingles, in particular, really impressed, totaling 21 points on 13 shots, including hitting a career-high 5 3-pointers. He also tallied 5 boards, 3 assists, 4 steals and a block. Frankly, it was a downright Hayward-esque line for the Aussie. If the Jazz can get anywhere near that productivity from him with Hayward back in the lineup, they shouldn’t have a problem dispatching a mediocre Sacramento team.