Utah have now won nine games in succession to propel themselves from a team with seemingly no hope of making the playoffs, to one sitting in sixth place in the Western Conference standings. Their latest win was far from their best, as they just scraped over the line against the Kings. The 103-97 victory came on the back of 28 points from Donovan Mitchell, and 22 from Rudy Gobert.
The Hawks’ fortunes have been relatively contrasting. They have now lost 11 of their last 13 games to work their way to last place in the Eastern Conference standings, with a record of 20-50. The latest of these defeats was a 117-122 defeat at the hands of the Bucks. Taurean Prince scored 38 points in the loss, but they couldn’t stop the multi-faceted offense of Milwaukee.
Three keys to the game
How good are Utah? - With every passing game, the Jazz appear to be an even better side. They have now won nine games in a row, and are on an extraordinary extended 21-2 streak. During their current nine-game win streak, they allow just 89.9 points per 100 possessions, over 11 less than their nearest rival.
How bad are the Hawks? - Bad, their recent form would seem to suggest. They are likely not overly interested in winning anyway, but their current 2-11 losing streak mustn’t have been a lot of fun for fans to watch. Their wins were a one-point victory over the woeful Suns, and a three-point victory over a Pistons side which simply can’t win a game, so the signs are that they will struggle against the Jazz.
Taurean Prince’s form - Perhaps the only reason Hawks fans will be tuning in to watch their team at the moment is to see the development of Prince. Averaging 13.5 points per game in his second NBA season, the former first-round draft pick has gone crazy in his last four games. He has scored at least 22 points in all of them, 38 points twice, and averages 30.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.0 blocks in this time.
Matchup to watch
Taurean Prince vs Joe Ingles - Ingles is a key part of Quin Snyder’s system, with his ability to defend, move the ball, and knock down 3-pointers making him a valuable player. After last season hitting 44.1% of his 3-point attempts, he has improved even further in 2017/18, connecting on 45% of shots from long range on his way to 11.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.1 steals per game.
He will likely be tasked with defending the young Prince, who has been an absolute handful for defenses of late. Prince has taken 20.5 shots from the field, 11.5 of which have been from long range, and he has been connecting on a good number of these, so Ingles will need to be on his game to stop the young Hawk.
Utah Jazz predicted starting lineup
PG - Ricky Rubio | SG - Donovan Mitchell | SF - Joe Ingles | PF - Derrick Favors | C - Rudy Gobert
Atlanta Hawks predicted starting lineup
PG - Dennis Schröder | SG - Tyler Dorsey | SF - Taurean Prince | PF - John Collins | C - Dewayne Dedmon
Gobert has been at his defensive best in seven career matchups with the Hawks. In these games, he averages 8.7 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists, but most impressive are his 1.3 steals and 3.0 blocks.
Schröder is far from a star at the best of times, but he has really struggled in nine career games against the Jazz. In these matchups, he averages just 9.6 points, shoots 36.8% from the field, and dishes out just 3.3 assists per game. He was solid when they met earlier this season though, putting up 20 points in the Hawks’ win.
The Hawks' total points over/under has been set at 98.0, which is far too high. They have a subpar offense and are playing what is comfortably the best defense in the league at the moment, and will struggle to score. Utah have allowed just two of their past 11 opponents to score more than this total, so don’t expect the Hawks to get near it.
The Jazz will cruise to victory in this game. They are one of the form sides of the competition while Atlanta do not have a lot of motivation to win. Utah’s defense, led by Gobert, will be too hard for the Hawks to penetrate, and they will really struggle to score. Prince will fail to continue his great form against such a well-drilled offense, and will be held to under 20 points. The Jazz will run out easy victors in this, making it 22 from their last 24 in a 108-92 win.
The game will be broadcast locally on ATTSN-RM and Fox Sports Southeast. Tip-off is at 9pm ET.