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Utah Jazz vs Phoenix Suns: Game Preview

How does 7 out of 8 sound?

NBA: Preseason-Phoenix Suns at Utah Jazz Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz (13-9) are back home at The Aunt Viv tonight to take on the Phoenix Suns (6-14) for the first time this season. Utah has won 6 of the last 7 games, most recently with a 107-101 win on the road against the Los Angeles Lakers. Rudy Gobert anchored the Jazz with 14 points, 17 rebounds, 5 blocks, and the best putback dunk that won’t show up in the box score.

History may not favor the Jazz (82-91 all-time vs. Phoenix) but recency does favor Utah. Phoenix hasn’t beat the Jazz on their home court in recent memory (this preseason excluded) and on paper Utah has a much better team. Gordon Hayward is averaging 22.8 PTS/6.4 REB/ 3.9 AST. Rudy Gobert is averaging a double-double with 10.8 PTS/11.3 REB/ 2.6 BLK. Phoenix has some bright spots as well in Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker. Bledsoe is averaging 19.3 PTS/ 5.9 REB/ 5.3 AST so far this season while Booker is shining with 19.2 PTS/ 2.5 REB/ 2.7 AST.

Phoenix’s most recent game saw them destroyed by the Golden State Warriors in a 138-109 loss on Saturday. Bledsoe and Booker combined for 48 points in the drubbing. Phoenix shot the ball pretty well at 45.1% from the field but if you give up 138 points it makes it really, really hard to win.

Starting Lineups:

Dante Exum vs Eric Bledsoe

Rodney Hood vs Devin Booker

Gordon Hayward vs P.J. Tucker

Boris Diaw vs Marquese Chriss

Rudy Gobert vs Tyson Chandler

The Jazz are still missing two starters in George Hill (toe) and Derrick Favors (knee). Alec Burks (leg, voodoo) is out as well. Phoenix’s T.J. Warren is missing his eighth consecutive game with an unspecified head injury. Can you remember the last time you saw two 100% healthy teams face off? Of course you can’t. You watch the Jazz.

Marquee Matchup: Rodney Hood vs Devin Booker

NBA: Utah Jazz at Phoenix Suns Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

This matchup is the most important because of the unknowns. We know Gordon Hayward and Eric Bledsoe will show up tonight. Less certain is how these secondary scoring options will perform. Both of these players are fluent in the language of #bucketz but they can both be streaky shooters. Hood is shooting 35.8% from 3-point range this season while Booker is sits squarely at 33.3%. Those aren’t great percentages for two guys known to be sharpshooters. Hood has been regressing to the mean after a hot start and Booker has been shooting below his capabilities all season. If one of these players is primed to go off tonight please, let it be Rodney.

X-Factor: Fatigue!

Utah played in Los Angeles last night. Gobert played almost 40 minutes. Hayward played 36 minutes and both Hood and Mack played over 30 minutes. Quin Snyder couldn’t even coach last night due to illness. Boom. More fatigue.

Phoenix meanwhile hasn’t played since Saturday and should have very fresh legs. Since they aren’t dealing with as many injuries they are able to spread time out over 13 different players a night, vs. Utah’s rotation of 10 players (though I’m sure Raul Neto and Joel Bolomboy would be happy to help out). We’ve seen the Jazz come out sluggish at home on the tail-end of a back-to-back but we’ve also seen them control ballgames in the same scenario.

Prediction: Jazz Win

Let’s face it: the ball is in Utah’s court. Yes, in the literal sense but also in the sense that they have a strong edge in this game being the more experienced team playing at home. If our key players show up and Shelvin Mack the team limit turnovers Utah is in a great position to win this game.

Go Jazz Go!