(Photo credit: Phil Whitehouse)
The Jazz are on fire, having won a ninth successive game when they beat the Trail Blazers 115-96 in Portland on Sunday. Joe Ingles went 6-of-9 from deep on his way to 24 points, while Donovan Mitchell had 27. They have worked their way back to just one game under .500 at 27-28 and, at tenth place in the Western Conference standings, are just two games behind the Pelicans in eighth.
San Antonio are coming off a resounding 105-122 defeat at the hands of the Warriors. Kyle Anderson had arguably the best game of his career, putting up 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting, six rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks, but the Spurs couldn’t stop Golden State’s lethal offense. With a record of 35-22, the Spurs sit in third place in the west but are just a game ahead of the Timberwolves.
Three keys to the game
Jazz on the march - A couple of weeks ago, Utah were wallowing at 18-28, but since then they have come alive. They have improved drastically on both ends of the floor - their offensive rating has ballooned from 105.9 to 113.5, while their defense has tightened from allowing 104.1 points per 100 possessions to just 97.1. Their net rating of 16.4 is comfortably the highest in the NBA during this period
Spurs on the road - San Antonio have defied belief by continuing to win despite a mediocre roster in the absence of Kawhi Leonard, but they have largely done so at home. In San Antonio, they are 22-6, but on the road they are a completely different prospect, having won just 13 of these 29 games.
Back-to-back Jazz - This will be the second leg of a back-to-back for Utah, but so far this season that hasn’t troubled them a great deal. From 11 back-to-backs, they have split the second leg 7-4. The two games they have played against the Spurs this season have both been the second game in two days, and both times the Jazz have won relatively comfortably.
Matchup to watch
Derrick Favors vs LaMarcus Aldridge - Aldridge has been a pillar of strength for the Spurs this season, taking over the reins as the team’s most important player with Leonard on the sidelines. He is averaging 22.4 points per game, comfortably the most in his three seasons in San Antonio, shooting at over 50% from the field, and also contributing 8.4 boards, 2.0 assists and 1.2 blocks. He will line up against Favors in this game. Favors is probably better suited to the five, but with Gobert taking that place he is playing the power forward position for the Jazz. He is a good inside defender, but Aldridge’s outside game will prove a challenge. Offensively, he is capable when operating within striking distance of the rim, and averages 12.2 points on 54.5% shooting this season.
Utah Jazz predicted starting lineup
PG - Ricky Rubio | SG - Donovan Mitchell | SF - Joe Ingles | PF - Derrick Favors | C - Rudy Gobert
San Antonio Spurs predicted starting lineup
PG - Patty Mills | SG - Danny Green | SF - Kyle Anderson | PF - LaMarcus Aldridge | C - David Bertans
When these two sides met last week, Ricky Rubio had the best offensive night of his career. He put up a career-high 34 points on 11-of-14 shooting, and was at one stage 9-of-9. He also dished out nine assists in this game. In his career, he averages 12.4 points a night against the Spurs, which is a career high, and also contributes 4.8 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 1.5 steals.
Aldridge was also impressive in the last game between these two sides, adding 31 points, five rebounds, three assists, three steals, and two blocks. He averages 19.6 points and 7.3 rebounds in 34 career games against the Jazz.
Utah have been made favorites in this game, but not by as much as they should be. The line is set at just three points, and they should be able to cover this. All signs point to a Jazz victory by more than this total, from their current form to the Spurs’ efforts on the road this season. Take Utah at the line.
The Jazz will make it ten wins in a row in this game. They are 2-0 for the season against San Antonio, and are now playing the best they have played in a long time.
Rubio should return after missing yesterday's game, and will be feeling confident after he put the sword to the Spurs last week. Mitchell is scoring heavily, Ingles’ shot is coming out as well as it ever has, and Favors and Gobert are combining nicely in the front court.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is able to manufacture a good team out of seemingly whichever players he has given, but his side has been poor on the road this year, and won’t be able to overcome a Jazz team riding a wave of momentum. Utah will run out 108-101 winners in this game.
The game will be broadcast locally on ATTSN-RM and FSSW. Tip-off is at 9pm ET.