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Utah Jazz vs Sacramento Kings: Game Preview

Can the Jazz field a healthy lineup? No. Will DeMarcus Cousins throw a fit? Probably.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Sacramento Kings Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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.

Injury Report:

Utah Jazz

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

Sacramento Kings

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?

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

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Utah Jazz Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Prediction: Jazz Win