Both teams have won just two games in their last six contests, but the Kings are likely feeling better than the Jazz right now. Aside from lower expectations, they are coming off back-to-back wins over the LA Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies (by a combined total of two points). While the Jazz have dropped several winnable games and a crucial playoff seeding battle against the Clippers.
Since Sacramento was last relevant (when they traded DeMarcus Cousins), they have won just five games (out of 17). But given Utah’s recent run of form and the King’s recent success against good teams, the Kings can’t be overlooked.
Gordon Hayward: QUESTIONABLE (Quad). After sitting out Utah’s win over New Orleans, Hayward is listed as questionable against the Kings.
Derrick Favors: OUT (Knee). Still no healthy Favs.
Arron Afflalo: QUESTIONABLE (Personal). Afflalo has missed the past two games. The most recent game he was dealing with a personal issue.
Tyreke Evans: QUESTIONABLE (Knee). Evans has been dealing with a lingering knee issue, having missed seven of the Kings’ last 13 games.
PG: George Hill vs Darren Collison
SG: Rodney Hood vs Buddy Hield
SF: Joe Ingles vs Garrett Temple
PF: Boris Diaw vs Willie Cauley-Stein
C: Rudy Gobert vs Kosta Koufos
This is based on the assumption that everyone on the injury report on both sides won’t play. But it is entirely possible for Evans, Afflalo or Hayward to play. Hayward and Afflalo would both start at SF if they suit up. Evans, maybe (he’s started in two of the last five games he’s played in).
Key Matchup: Rodney Hood vs Buddy Hield
This isn’t the most glamorous matchup, but with Gordon Hayward potentially out, Rodney Hood will need to take more of the scoring burden on himself. And he’ll be guarding the Kings’ prized acquisition from the Cousins trade in Buddy Hield.
Since being inserted into the starting lineup on March 10, Hield has averaged 16.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists. He’s also shot an efficient 47.6 percent from the field (39.7 from downtown).
X-Factor: Everyone not named Rudy Gobert (and maybe Gordon Hayward)
At this point in the season we know exactly what we’re getting out of Rudy Gobert. It’s the rest of the team that no one is ever sure of. Rodney Hood is...well, Rodney Hood. And after the first couple months in the season, George Hill has cooled off. Dante Exum either seems to flash his glorious potential or not step on the court. The list goes on.
From the rest of the starting lineup to the entire bench, if every non-DPOY candidate on the Jazz pulls their weight, like they did against the Pelicans, Utah should win easily.
Prediction: Jazz win
Not sure if I’m ever going to say anything different. I’m a huge homer.