The Utah Jazz (32-30) are still hanging in there. The Jazz picked up an important 116-108 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves last night to help them keep pace with the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers for the race for the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
Rudy Gobert had his best game in a while to power the Jazz to victory over the Wolves. The Stifle Tower had a terrific line of 26 points, 16 rebounds, and four blocks. Donovan Mitchell also had 26 points as he bounced back from a pedestrian 16-point outing in a loss to the Houston Rockets. Forwards Derrick Favors and Jae Crowder each chipped in with 15 points apiece.
The Jazz now head to Sacramento to face the young Kings (19-43), who recently snapped a five-game losing skid with a 116-111 overtime win over the Brooklyn Nets. With Zach Randolph held out, rookies Bogdan Bogdanovic and De’Aaron Fox stepped up to carry the load on offense for the Kings.
Bogdanovic had another big scoring night with 23 points and six rebounds to lead all scorers. Meanwhile, Fox had 21 points, including a clutch floater which sent the game to overtime. Willie Cauley-Stein had a strong line of 17 points, seven boards, and seven assists, and Buddy Hield added 16 points off the Kings bench.
Three keys to the game
Zach Randolph’s availability – Randolph was a healthy scratch against the Nets, and while the Kings still won, they will need their top scorer to beat the Jazz. If Kings management sits him out again against Utah, the chances of Sacramento coming away with a win dip significantly.
Rookie showdown – Bogdanovic got the better of Donovan during the Rising Stars Challenge as he and Hield led Team World past Team USA in a landslide. Bogdanovic also had a big night in his first meeting with Utah as he went off for 25 points. However, Mitchell still out-dueled him then with 34 points to lead the Jazz to a 120-105 road win. With the importance those two young shooting guards have on their teams’ offenses, their performance will continue to play a major factor in the outcome of this game.
De’Aaron Fox – Fox didn’t have a great night in that first meeting with Utah as he finished with only six points on 1-of-6 shooting. He’s grown by leaps and bounds ever since as he’s taken more control over the offense. And after popping up with 21 points against the Nets, the Kings will need a similar outing out of Fox against a tough Jazz defense to get a rare winning streak started.
Matchup to watch
Rudy Gobert vs Willie Cauley-Stein – Gobert missed the first game against Sacramento due to injury, and Cauley-Stein capitalized on that en route to a huge 26-point night. But Gobert’s back and playing some of his best basketball of the year for this matchup, so WCS could have a tougher time producing the numbers he’s been accustomed to over the last few games.
Jazz projected starting lineup
PG – Ricky Rubio | SG – Donovan Mitchell | SF – Joe Ingles | PF – Derrick Favors | C – Rudy Gobert
Kings projected starting lineup
PG – De’Aaron Fox | SG – Bogdan Bogdanovic | SF – Justin Jackson | PF – Zach Randolph | C – Willie Cauley-Stein
The Kings’ defense against opposing shooting guards has not been great all year, and if there’s anyone who can take advantage of that weakness, it’s Mitchell. He and the departed Rodney Hood went off for 79 points in that first game, and it’d be a surprise if Mitchell didn’t at least top 20 once again this time around. Gobert will also be worth considering because of the Kings’ struggles to guard centers.
As for the Kings, Bogdanovic and Hield might be the way to go. Those two are the form players at the moment and have been consistently delivering decent numbers. If Randolph misses out again, those two will be big beneficiaries in terms of added shot attempts.
The Jazz know what’s at stake and will likely be locked in right from the jump. The Kings actually hurt their draft positioning with that win over the Nets and likely won’t be eager to pick up another one quite so soon. Take Utah to cover a 6.5-point spread.
The Jazz take care of business in Sacramento as they get the 108-96 win over the Kings.
This game will be broadcast on NBC California and AT&T SportsNet – Rocky Mountain. Tip-off is at 10:00 pm Eastern.
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