A Look at the Jazz
The Jazz are on a disastrous 4-11 run in the month of December. What has gone wrong? Part of it has been a brutal schedule. 7 of their 14 games this month have been against upper-echelon teams. Also their Big Three have been underperforming. Carlos Boozer has been the steadiest but he's slightly off of his scoring average. Deron Williams more so, plus he's turning the ball over a ton. Mehmet Okur has been out half the month with a shoulder injury and hasn't contributed much when he's played. When those three aren't clicking Utah has a hard time staying on an even keel. Worse, they've been giving up a substantial number of points: 117 to Sacramento, 125 to Dallas, 116 to Atlanta, 123 to the L*kers, all this month. Their defense has allowed an average of 109.3 ppg this month. They're a good offensive team but not that good. They're not getting back in transition and they're not getting out to guard the perimeter most nights.
Nevertheless this is not the end of the Jazz. Their schedule gets exponentially easier the next two months. Plus they still do a ton of things well. Carlos Boozer is a fantastic rebounder and scorer. Deron Williams is still shooting 50% and averaging 9 assists per game. The Jazz smash their opponents in rebounds, assists, steals and forced turnovers, and especially shooting percentage. They haven't forgotten how and where to score. You can get easy shots on them, but they'll get easy shots on you too.
The Jazz know this game means something to them. After Portland's 13-1 month and leapfrogging them in the standings Utah will want to send a message. We're likely to see a motivated club tonight.
What I'd Like To See
- We cannot come out flat like we have been the last few games. During the heart of the winning streak we were jumping on opponents early. Lately we've been flat and depended on fourth-quarter heroics to pull us through. Fourth-quarter heroics don't happen nearly as often on the road, though. We better come with intensity from the get-go.
- A large part of our dominance has been doubling up people in free throw attempts. We need to be aggressive getting to the rim tonight. The long shot will always be there but it will be hard to win with bombs alone. We need some infantry work too.
- We need Lamarcus Aldridge to come through with a big game. We can't depend on Channing or Joel to stop Boozer. Lamarcus can't really stop him either but at least he can score with him.
- Our White Unit has to dominate their bench. Scoring-wise that's certainly possible but we also need some toughness and attitude from the second unit. They have a lot of energy players. We can't get outworked or bullied around and expect to win.
- Utah will pick your pockets until they hit lint...and then some. Taking care of the ball is the one thing that has sustained us so far. We need to do it again tonight.
P.S. Believe it or not I have to work this evening...as in all night. The game recap and final jersey scores will probably not come until Tuesday morning.
P.P.S. Ben has heroically volunteered to step in with a recap this evening in my absence, so watch for that!