The Utah Jazz dropped back down to 2-2 with a 102-84 reverse at the Los Angeles Clippers last night. They were short on wings with Rodney Hood still sidelined with a strained calf and Joe Ingles limited to just 18 minutes with a stomach problem. That meant rookie Donovan Mitchell had to shoot 20 times – ten more than his closest teammate – and scored just 19 points.
As for the Phoenix Suns, they got off to a winning start under interim head coach Jay Triano, beating the Sacramento Kings, 117-115. Mike James starred with 18 points and seven assists in 27 minutes in place of disgruntled point guard Eric Bledsoe, while Devin Booker and Marquese Chriss led the team with 22 and 19 points, respectively.
Three Keys to the Game
Pace factor – The Jazz play the slowest pace in the league, while the Suns have one of the fastest. Phoenix will look to push the tempo against Utah, who will be shorthanded and on the second night of a back-to-back. Will they have the legs to cope with the younger, fresher Suns?
Offense vs. Defense – The Suns don’t have a prayer of stopping anyone, which is why they’re leading the league with 125 points allowed per game. They’re only chance of winning is to score on the Jazz, which will be easier said than done given Utah’s excellent defense.
Frontcourt battle – Chriss had a breakout game against the Kings, but going from Sacramento’s frontcourt to Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors will be quite a jump up in competition. The Jazz have the bodies to dominate the paint and nullify that part of Phoenix’s game.
Matchup to Watch
Donovan Mitchell vs. Devin Booker – Booker is obviously the Suns’ main man offensively and figures to have a bigger role in playmaking with Bledsoe no longer in the picture. However, he’ll face a stiff test in Mitchell, who is a dogged defender and will look to harass the Suns shooting guard all night long.
Jazz Projected Starting Lineup
PG – Ricky Rubio | SG – Donovan Mitchell | SF – Joe Ingles | PF – Derrick Favors | C – Rudy Gobert
Suns Projected Starting Lineup
PG – Mike James | SG – Devin Booker | SF – T.J. Warren | PF – Marquese Chriss | C – Tyson Chandler
Ricky Rubio had a relatively quiet night with ten points, five rebounds, and five assists against the Clippers. But he figures to be a big beneficiary of the slightly faster pace and the awful Phoenix defense, especially with subpar defenders in Mike James and Tyler Ulis tasked with covering him all night.
Even on the second night of a back-to-back, the Jazz are the still the superior team over the Suns, whose offense likely won’t be good enough to consistently score on Utah. Take the Jazz to cover as six-point road favorites.
The Jazz slow down the Suns’ offense en route to a 102-92 win on the road.
NBA League Pass and local sports channels are the viewing options for this one. Tip-off at Talking Stick Resorts Arena is at 10pm ET
Want to share your opinion? Why not Write For Us?