The Utah Jazz (18-10) will face off against the league-leading Golden State Warriors (24-4) at Oracle Arena tonight. The Jazz go into Oakland boasting the league’s second best defensive rating (behind the Grizzlies) while the Warriors enter the game with the league’s second best offensive rating (trailing the Raptors). Both teams have won 8 of their last 10 and 4 in a row. The Jazz are coming off 1 day of rest (they are 9-7 in games after 1 day of rest) and the Warriors have had the last 2 days off (they are 4-1 in games with 2 days rest).
Unlike the Warriors, the Jazz do not play on Christmas this year. But Christmas is about to come early for anyone wanting to see how a mostly-healthy, slow-it-down Jazz team matches up against the star-studded, fast-paced Warriors team. If you’re a Jazz fan, it’s not one of those Christmases where you’ve been extra nice all year and know you’re getting everything on your list. This one could go either way. The Jazz unwrapped a moral victory against Warriors two weeks ago when they sat 4 starters due to injury and lost by just 7 points at home. But nobody cares about moral victories (or bad Christmas analogies) and the Jazz have all but one starter (George Hill-sprained toe) back for this rematch.
Prior to the December 8th game against the Jazz, Steve Kerr wished that the Jazz would have been healthy for their matchup, stating, “I think Utah has a great roster. They got a chance to be a really, really good team. I wanted to see all their guys tonight and see how we stacked up...” Tonight’s game is the chance for both teams to size themselves up against a team they may end up facing in the playoffs.
Quin Snyder will have the chance to push his record as Jazz coach over the .500 mark as he currently sits at a record of 96-96. Snyder has never been at or over .500 since being hired prior to the start of the 2014 season. The Jazz also have the opportunity to make up some ground in the Western Conference standings as the Clippers have announced that Blake Griffin will be out for 3-6 weeks and there are reports that the Rockets may be without Clint Capela for a few weeks.
The Jazz aren’t known for giving bulletin board material to opposing teams. That didn’t stop Draymond Green from finding his own motivation prior to the last game against the Jazz. In a bizarre story, Green claimed that his mom had sent him a text saying that Quin Snyder’s gameplan against the Warriors was to let Draymond shoot. No one else can find these quotes but Green made it clear that he is not the right guy to “talk junk to.” Given Green’s social media blunder over the summer, maybe that’s not the best choice of words.
Rudy Gobert had some actual comments that could be perceived as bulletin board material for Green and the Warriors:
Rudy Gobert says he is the best center in the league pic.twitter.com/U7C6CZvp0x— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 20, 2016
Gobert is putting up historically great offensive efficiency numbers right now and has been his usual defensively-stalwart self on the other end of the court. Gobert, who has yet to make an All-Star team will face the Warriors who could have 4 All-Stars this year. Green, who anchors the Warriors defense and sometimes plays the Center position, may take Gobert’s comments as a personal challenge.
If Gobert can put together a dominating performance against the Warriors tonight and the Jazz emerge from Golden State with a victory it would definitely help his case. A Jazz win could also make for a much more interesting potential playoff matchup. And a win for Snyder might mean he doesn’t drop below .500 as the Jazz coach for a long time, if ever. With all of this on the line, the anticipation does feel a little bit like Christmas.