Game four of the six game home stand is tonight, with the Utah Jazz taking on the Chicago Bulls. It's hard to build a rivalry against a team you only see (usually) twice a year, and this is probably why non-regional inter-conference rivals are rare. You have the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. That one is obvious. But who else? The Milwaukee Bucks and Minnesota Timberwolves? The New Orleans Pelicans and the Atlanta Hawks? I'm leaning on geography here because I don't actually see any real ones. For us Utah Jazz fans though we see a real rivalry against the Chicago Bulls. Their all-time regular season record is 45-49, that's pretty even. Utah is 27-20 in Utah, and Utah is 18-29 in Chicago. Both teams win at home and the road. And, of course, there's that whole "We were the only team to play the Bulls in the finals twice, during their two three-peats" thing. That should mean something, right?
It means a lot to us Utah Jazz fans, who are still not over it and in a few sad cases, like with me, are still living in the past.
Tonight isn't about the past. It's about the future. It's also about the now, but shut up. It's about defending the homecourt, attempting to go .500 against the East, and winning a third game in a row for the first time this season.
The Jazz are as healthy as they can hope to be right now, missing only Dante Exum (starting PG), and Alec Burks (legit 6MOY candidate). On the flip-side the Bulls are without Joakim Noah, Nikola Mirotic, and Mike Dunleavy Jr. (For what it is worth, Kirk Hinrich was out against the Lakers, their last game, with a left quad contusion. And E'Twaun Moore and Derrick Rose both have hamstring strains.) The advantage is here for the Jazz, they are at home, rested, not on a road trip, and have fewer guys missing.
The 26-20 bulls are a good team. They have a Top 10 Defense (9th in DRTG at 103.3 pts/100) but struggle on offense, being 25th in the NBA in ORTG (103.7). They still manage an interesting margin, 101.4 ppg (17th) to 101.0 (14th). they also have star players, with Gasol being a multiple time NBA Champion, and Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose being most likely to live at the line against our team. Rose is a former MVP, and Butler an All-Star. And those three guys will be a problem for our team.
For the Jazz, sure, the 21-25 record doesn't scare anyone, but that's not their record when healthy. And they are relatively healthy right now. I don't believe Taj Gibson is going to be able to handle Derrick Favors and/or Trey Lyles and/or Trevor Booker. Rudy Gobert usually gives fits to anyone named Gasol. And Gordon Hayward is going to want to showcase his game against an "All-Star". Last season these two teams split the season series, with the Jazz winning in Chicago. I think Utah needs to take care of this home game tonight.
I like our chances. I love the Jazz. And after all these decades, I still hate the Bulls.