1 - LeBron vs Jazz is must-watch entertainment.
Over the years, when the Utah Jazz face off against LeBron, if you decide not to watch you run the risk of missing some of the best Jazz games of the year. You should also re-evaluate some your life choices. The Gordon Hayward “Bedlam” game, the Thrillsap Miracle in Miami game, and the Sundiata Gaines game come to mind as some of the classics. March Madness ain’t got nothing on this matchup.
LeBron shows up to play against the Jazz as well. In his 26 career games versus Utah, he has averaged 29.3 points per game. The only team he has averaged more points against in his career is the Boston Celtics at 29.5 points per game.
2 - Can the Jazz stay hot from 3?
The Jazz are scorching hot from downtown right now. Over the last 5 games, the Jazz are shooting 45.7% from 3. That’s the best in the NBA over the last 5 games. Post All-Star break the Jazz are shooting 40.9% (which is good for 4th in the league during that time) and their overall season percentage is 37.1% (9th in the league). Even Boris Diaw is shooting 40% from 3 over his last 5 games (2 for 5, but still).
That being said, the Jazz don’t jack it up from distance as often, or as effectively, as the Cavs. The Cavs shoot a staggering 33.9 3-point attempts per game (2nd only to the Rockets) and shoot 39.2% doing so (2nd only to the Spurs). This game may very well come down to which team executes their 3-point strategies (offensively and defensively).
3 - Can Jazz stretch 4 lineup continue to dominate?
Derrick Favors’ knee bone contusion is a bummer. There is a pretty nice silver lining though: lineups with Gobert at the 5 and Joe Johnson at the 4 have been gang-busters. Take a look at this David Locke tweet from before the Pistons game:
Coming into the game— David Locke (@Lockedonsports) March 16, 2017
Joe Johnson at 4 /Rudy Gobert
Off Rtg: 116.3
Def Rtg: 100.9
+8 in 7:31 in 1st quarter
The gravity that Gobert has when he is around the rim or running the pick and roll with a ball-handler is immense. Johnson (and even Diaw) can create spacing by standing out near the 3 line. If teams help to try and stop a rolling Gobert from getting a lob, there is going to be someone open on the perimeter.
4 - Gobert & Hayward Beasting
Over the last 5 games, when Gobert and Hayward are on the floor together, it hasn’t seemed to matter who the 4 is. Gobert and Hayward have been the best 2-man lineup or combo in the NBA over the last 5 games.
There can be some noise when it comes to lineup data but a larger sample size shows this is no fluke. Hayward & Gobert are also the 14th best 2-man combo if we expand this out over the entire season (Gobert/Hill is 10th best in the NBA). If you’ve noticed a common denominator in these lineup stats, you can see just how important Gobert is to the Jazz and his teammates. Perhaps Gobert’s gravity may help keep Hayward and Hill around for years to come.
5 - Hood & Hill Injuries
Hood did not play the second half of the Pistons game last night due to knee soreness. At the time of this writing, no official word has been given on whether Hood will play. If he sits, we will likely see more of Joe Ingles, Alec Burks, and Dante Exum. The depth and versatility of this Jazz team is really paying off right now.
In the 3rd quarter of last night’s game, George Hill took a hit to the head from Jeff Withey’s elbow last night and looked to be in a lot of pain. He left the game but came back in during the 4th to finish out the game. This injury is concerning for a couple of reasons. First, Hill already suffered a concussion this year and he had a visible bump on his head when he came back in.
Second, Hill has finished games with injuries before only to miss significant time immediately after. He sprained his toe in the 3rd quarter of a game and then played the 4th quarter of that game. He went on to miss several games due to that injury. I hope it’s not the case but it is something to keep an eye out for.