A Look at the Jazz
The Jazz have been beset by injuries in the early season. Deron Williams missed 13 of their first 15 games and has yet to notch a point total higher than 15. He’s shooting 39% from the floor, 27% from distance. He’s making up for it by dishing assists in the mid-teens most night but this is still not the Williams we’re used to seeing. Carlos Boozer has missed the last 11 games and will not return tonight, a huge boon for the Blazers. While nursing the two superstars along the Jazz supporting cast has thrived by hitting every shot they throw up. Guards and small forwards Ronnie Brewer, C.J. Miles, Matt Harpring, and Andre Kirilenko are all shooting above 47%. Big forward Paul Millsap and center Mehmet Okur are both above 50%. You also have to watch Kyle Korver, Okur, and Miles from the three-point arc. As is typical of a Jerry Sloan-coached team the Jazz know how and where to set each other up and it shows.
Basically the Jazz want to control the pace, keep both sides in the halfcourt, grab rebounds to keep you away from multiple possessions, and make their superior execution tell. They win a ton when they top 100. They have only let their opponent reach the century mark 8 times this season. They have lost 7 of those games.
Keys to the Game
1. Boozer being out helps, but the Jazz are still 6-5 in those games. With Millsap and Okur on the court this is nowhere near a guaranteed win. Nevertheless Boozer’s absence frees up possibilities for Lamarcus Aldridge. He needs to be as aggressive tonight as he was against
2. This is one of those all-or-nothing games for Greg Oden…not based on the nature of his matchup but based on what he’s shown so far. Sometimes he dominates against smaller, perimeter-oriented centers. Sometimes he gets run ragged by them, gets in foul trouble, and never makes a peep. The former result would go a long way towards winning this game. Here’s a hint: I don’t think Mehmet Okur is going to be able to stop you if you want to run down the court and immediately set up two feet from the hoop.
4. The other critical battle will be for offensive boards.
5. Is anyone else scared that the slumping Deron Williams will all of a sudden come alive and return to his old form against the Blazers? That happens a lot, seemingly. It would be nicer tonight if he didn’t.
Were Boozer playing I would pencil in this game as a loss, pure and simple.
Check out the Jazz point of view at SLCDunk.