Well, here we are. No trades, no FA signings. Typical Jazzy trade deadline season, really. Many people argued that the team needed a shakeup, and I guess time will tell. Just remember that Dennis Lindsey made some pretty fantastic moves last summer—bringing in Joe Johnson, Boris Diaw and George Hill—and is perfectly capable of getting things done that need to be done.
Oh, and thank your lucky stars that Vivek Ranadive and Vlade Divac aren’t running the team.
Anyway, tonight we have an actual, honest-to-goodness Utah Jazz basketball game, and it’s against the Milwaukee Bucks. They sit at 25-30 on the year and have won only 4 of their last 10 games, and 7 of their last 20. So, it’s safe to say that these Bucks are riding the proverbial struggle bus, especially with the recent injury of Jabari Parker.
The Bucks are a bit of an enigma. They seem like they should be better than their record shows, with some quality wins coming against the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Cleveland Cavaliers, and a narrow loss against the Golden State Warriors. That’s the mark of a talented team with a young core—these guys will be in the top half of the Eastern Conference in the next three years or so, in my opinion.
The Jazz and Bucks met earlier this month, with the Jazz coming away with the easy victory, 104-88, holding the ailing Giannis Antetokounmpo (he had a virus of some sort) to just nine points. He’s healthy now, but the Bucks are still probably going to struggle a bit on the offensive end without Parker. The Jazz, for their part, rested Derrick Favors, who is slated to play tonight. Rodney Hood only played 8 minutes, hyper-extending his knee, and will also play tonight.
So, let’s look at some matchups:
PG: George Hill vs. Matthew Dellavedova
Delly had a few good games against Golden State during the Finals a couple years ago, and became the darling of the NBA. He’s an NBA player, but isn’t anything special. Sometimes he’s straight-up bad. George Hill, and probably Dante Exum, will boatrace this guy.
SG: Rodney Hood vs. Tony Snell
Tony Snell is a rather underwhelming shooting guard. He plays defense and takes care of the ball, but he’s an average, well, shooter. That said, he has shown that he can get hot and make shots: just the type of guy that usually dooms the Jazz. Rodney Hood is coming off of an injury, so he may be a little rusty. For that matter, though, everyone might be rusty because nobody has been playing basketball (at least, not for real). Even when he hasn’t been injured, he’s been rather streaky this season—he reminds me of a more talented CJ Miles. Still, I think he’s the better player and will provide a much-needed scoring boost for the Jazz tonight.
SF: Gordon Hayward vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo
This is the marquee matchup: two first-time all-stars going toe-to-toe in the first real game of the second half of the season. Both are prolific scorers, and both play defense. The Greek Freak is more athletic, and Hayward is a better outside shooter. This is going to be fun.
PF: Derrick Favors vs. Michael Beasley
Hey, what do you know? Derrick Favors is still on the team, and I’m happy about that. He’s better than journeyman Michael Beasley, and I’m looking for him to have more spring in his step after all that rest. Beasley isn’t very good. Not horrible, but not good.
C: Rudy Gobert vs Thon Maker
I'm actually pretty high on Thon Maker's potential, but he's just no match for the Stifle Tower. Nope. Not even close.
So, the burning question we all probably have before the game is this: will the Jazz offense that we once knew and loved show up? If so, I don’t think this game should be overly difficult for the good guys. Their defense has rarely faltered this season. Folks, this is game 1 of 25 left in the regular season, and these are 25 games that are more important than Jazz games have been in years. Top priority is convincing G-Time to stay here, and winning goes a long way towards that.