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Utah Jazz vs Brooklyn Nets Game Preview

Game 58: Nets (16-42) @ Jazz (28-29)
Location: Vivint Smart Home Arena • Salt Lake City, UT
Time: 7:30 p.m. (MT)
TV: ROOT Sports • Radio: 1280 AM / 97.5 FM

Good / Bad old days
Good / Bad old days
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz get back to business tonight hosting the Brooklyn Nets at the Aunt Viv. This is the last of a 3 game home stand, with only one more left in the season (vs. LAL, vs. GSW, and vs. MIN). They need to finish strong in order to keep their head above water as they go out on a four games in six nights road trip out East on Monday. Utah has traded wins and losses since the Pelicans broke their seven game win streak, and after the thumping they took to the Spurs, need to move forward and get back to .500. Brooklyn just beat Phoenix by 10 in Arizona and are looking to win two games in a row for the first time since December 8th and 10th, 2015. Hopefully that doesn't happen.

Utah will still be without Dante Exum and Alec Burks, but I think it's fair to say that combo guard defender Shelvin Mack has stepped into this situation and helped alleviate some of the pain (mostly related to injuries and having to play NBA DL talent at the NBA level). Brooklyn bought out Joe Johnson (now with the Miami Heat) and Andrea Bargnani (a free agent), and are still going to be without point guard Jarett Jack for the rest of the season. Further complicating things they are without Rondae Hollis-Jefferson meaning that this team is without, objectively, the PG, SG, SF, and PF that they went into this season thinking where going to be four fifths of their starting lineup. This is a clear case where the Jazz are actually less injured than their opponents, even if you add Tibor Pleiss' D League assignment, the Jazz are more talented warm bodies than the other club.

The fun part of today remains with the rest of the Nets talent. Brook Lopez is noone's fool, and has actually played better than Rudy Gobert in some of their head-to-head match-ups. Paired up with tweener Thaddeus Young promotes a small-ball approach that is still rooted in a legit back-to-the-basket scoring 7 footer. This may mean less minutes of Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert on the floor at the same time (and it will always be this way going forward until one of them can learn to guard 4/3s out there on the perimeter). This means more of Trevor Booker, Trey Lyles, and possibly Gordon Hayward and Joe Ingles at the four in desperation.

It would be awesome if the Jazz still had Andrei Kirilenko. But by the same token, I think the Nets feel the same way.

The Nets are a more broken team. They are 20th in pace, but 29th in points per game (97.0). This is because they have the 28th "best" offense in the league by ORTG, that puts up 102.0 points per 100.0 possessions. Their defense is even worse. But they aren't horrible at everything. They don't put the other team to the line much (1st in FT/FGA), but are almost last in letting the defense shoot really well (29th in Opp. eFG% at .525). They aren't great on the glass so that should help the Jazz' board oriented game.

2015 2016 GM 58 BKN at UTA - Nets Player Stats

Without Joe Johnson and Andre Bargnani they are giving up on some of their most expensive contracts. But they are also giving up on their two real reliable scorers who can get to the line and make the other team pay. Lopez is still a 21 / 8 guy, and Young is a surprising (to me) 15/9/2/2/1 player this year. But with the injuries, buy outs, and general talent level of this club I really expect a Jazz win. After all, if you're going to lose to a team that's giving big minutes to Wayne Ellington, Bojan Bogdanovic, Shane Larkin, and Sergey Karasev then you are either hopelessly falling apart, or the Phoenix Suns. Wait, that was both reductive and redundant.

Anyway, the Jazz need to win tonight. Period.

We hope to see something from our bench bigs, because they are going to get to play a little against the small Nets. Trevor Booker is no longer playing awfully. I have to give him that. Trey Lyles has fallen off the face of this Earth. And Jeff Withey, well, there's almost no need to play him when your best center is Gobert and your second best center is Favors -- and you increasingly find yourselves in situations where they both can't be on the floor at the same time.

If this is a closer game than expected then the Jazz are going to need some shot makers. This is probably why the Shelvin Mack experiment cost the Jazz only a second rounder. With the Hawks he shot 14.something percent from deep. In three games with the Jazz he's shooting 22.something percent. This is why in games where points still matter we are still going to see Trey Burke. I don't know if his party is happy with him in that Trent Tucker role though.

2015 2016 GM 58 BKN at UTA - Jazz Player Stats

We really miss Alec Burks. Even if he wasn't the most perfect player in analytics. Tonight is a scheduled bad shooting night for Rodney Hood (he should have 50 tonight against the guys he will be defended by, so he obviously will not get close). I'd love to be proven wrong about this. We shall see. (Reverse jinx engaged!)

GO JAZZ GO!