Having narrowly avoided multiple scares on Saturday, from both the Orlando Magic and Rodney Hood’s knees, the Utah Jazz (26-16) will head to Arizona to face off against the pesky Phoenix Suns (13-27).
There aren’t a ton of story-lines, this being a middle-of-the-season match-up against a below .500 opponent. But there are still a few things you can keep an eye or two on.
Where will the SG minutes go?
Rodney Hood has been declared out after hyper-extending his knee on a fast-break against the Orlando Magic on Saturday (maybe that’s why we don’t have more of those?). Officially, he has a bone bruise, but the important thing to keep in mind is that he didn’t do any structural damage to his knee, which is great luck. The down side is that Utah will be without his services for at least one game, probably more.
Tribune sources: Hood will miss Monday's game in Phoenix with the bone bruise, but will be day-to-day otherwise going forward— Tony Jones (@tribjazz) January 15, 2017
Hood’s absence brings up the question of how will coach Quin Snyder divide up the 29.3 minutes per game that Hood averages. Conventional wisdom would lead one to believe that Joe Ingles will start in place of Hood (in the five games Hood has missed, Ingles started in four of those games). But even if Ingles plays Rodney’s full 29 minutes that will still leave about 20 minutes to hand out to Jazz wings.
Potentially, a chunk of those minutes could fall into the lap of Alec Burks,who took advantage of a season-high 15 minutes by scoring eight points and collecting six rebounds. Other players, like Dante Exum and Joe Johnson, might see increased time at the two or three spots.
Will the Jazz play down to Phoenix again?
Utah has this maddening habit of playing down to lesser opponents. Every time I sit down to watch a game (which I don’t get to do terribly often) it seems like they end up neck-and-neck with some team below.500. True to that trend, the last time the Jazz played the Suns they escaped with a hard-fought 91-86 victory at home.
Phoenix is not a bad team despite their record. They have talent on their roster (Devin Booker and Eric Bledsoe to name a couple). But the Jazz have no business letting a 13-27 team hang in the game until the fourth quarter. This doesn’t mean that the Jazz need to be up by 15 by the end of the first quarter( we aren’t the Golden State Warriors). Utah just needs to show that this is a game between a quality playoff team and a lottery team.
Derrick Favors’ continued improvement.
Over the last seven games, Derrick Favors has slowly been rounding into form. You can see it on just by watching how he moves and how aggressive he is being on offense. He is taking more shots by attacking the rim and shooting outside shots with confidence.
In these last seven Favors is averaging 11.1 points on 47.9 percent shooting and 6.0 rebounds all in 28.3 minutes. We’re beginning to get the old Favors back.
That Devin Booker guy.
In the past two games, Devin Booker did his damage, but he wasn’t exactly a Jazz-killer. He averaged 20.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, one assist on a nice 60 percent from the field. But he was also a combined -32 in two games that were decided by a total of 12 points.
However, Booker has been on a rampage this past week. In the last three games he is averaging 35.3 points and is shooting a blistering 57.9 percent from three-point range. These crazy numbers have allowed the Suns to stay with the Cavaliers for four quarters and beat the Spurs.
Phoenix also lost to the Mavericks in that stretch but if Booker goes off against the Jazz, the Suns will be in this game.
Joe Johnson’s fresh legs.
The non-Aussie Joe miss Saturday’s game against the Magic so he could rest. It was the second night of a back-to-back and Joe is getting up there in age. Plus it was the Magic; the Jazz weren’t expecting to actually have to play wire-to-wire in order to beat them (nothing wrong with that kind of thinking right?).
Johnson has been a steady, veteran presence on the Jazz and has made valuable contributions to the team, especially on offense. His fresh legs will be welcome for a team playing its third game in four nights.