Utah leads the series 3-0 with one game to go. Two of the wins came before the trade deadline and the trade of Deron Williams to New Jersey for Devin Harris and Derrick Favors. So, I'm going to only look at Utah since the trade deadline. Prior to the deadline the Jazz were 4-8 and finished March with two more losses, to end the month 4-10, and on a 6 game losing streak. March ended the same 4-10 record including a 109-102 overtime victory over the Kings in Energy Solutions Arena on March 5th. Their other victories came at home against the 76ers and the Twolves, and on the road in Toronto which is their only road victory going back to Feb. 25th.
Omri Casspi missed the game because of a sore back so the Kings started a big lineup with Dalembert, Cousins and Greene. The Kings out rebounded Utah, 50-47, and had a tough time guarding Jefferson (27 pts) down the stretch after Dalembert fouled out. Garcia who missed 21 games due to injury scored 18 points in his first game back. DeMarcus Cousins had 18 points and 18 rebounds.
The Kings went on a 13-2 run at the end of the third which ended on a Cousins dunk at the 8:41 mark of the fourth quarter giving the Kings an 83-74 lead. The Jazz struck back with a 12-1 run to put them back in front. The run was capped with Jefferson's jumper with 4:05 to go. The two teams continued to exchange baskets until with 25 seconds left in regulation; Jefferson tipped in his own miss and put Utah up by 95-92. Marcus Thornton, who scored 22 points, made a 3-pointer with 14.1 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 95.
After Cisco opened up overtime with a three, the Kings were only able to score four more point, 2 on a JT jumper and 2 pts off a layup by Taylor with 4 seconds left and the Kings down by 7. Raja Bell had two crucial jumpers and a steal in overtime to seal the game. It was Ty Corbin's first home win as head coach and stopped their home losing streak at seven games. Corbin is 5-17 since taking over for Jerry Sloan after he retired Feb. 10.
The Kings shot 60% from the FT Line hitting just 19 of 30, and ended up being outscored by 6 when the Jazz hit 25 of 33 in a 7pt loss. The Kings ended up with 5 more FGA's but 2 fewer made baskets and shot 41% from the field. And, as always the Kings had too many turnovers (18).
The Jazz are official out of the playoffs after losing their 7th straight game against the Lakers on Friday. With a record of 36-40, they are in 11th place and 7 games behind 8th place Memphis with 6 games to go. After the Kings they go to LA to face the Lakers, and then back home against Portland, back on the road to play San Antonio and New Orleans, and finish the season at home against Denver. It could be that winning in Sacramento may be their only chance of not finishing the season on a 13 game losing streak.
With the current injury report the chances of them ending the season with 13 straight losses look good.
Harris injured his hamstring 3 minutes into the March 21 game against Memphis and has sat out the last 5 games. Bell sprained his right foot in the third quarter of the March 28th game against the Wizard and missed last Friday's game against the Lakers. Kirilenko left the March 23 game against the Thunder late in the second quarter with a bruised nerve in his left knee, and has missed the last 4 games. Price was also hurt in the March 28th game, and Okur hasn't played since Jan. 28th. With Harris and Price hurt Utah called up guard Kyle Weaver from the NBA Development League.
With so many injuries, Utah went with a big lineup on Friday that included 7-foot-1 Kyrylo Fesenko at Center and Al Jefferson moving to power forward and Paul Millsap to small forward. The starting backcourt consists of 6-6 forward CJ Miles at SG and ten year pro 6-1 Earl Watson at PG.
The reserves include rookie PF Derrick Favors and Utah's first round pick rookie SF Gordon Hayward and their late 2nd round pick (55) 6-9 SF Jeremy Evans. The also added 6-6 guard Kyle Weaver and 6-11 center Marcus Cousin from the D-League.
Fesenko has averaged 2pts/ 2 rebs in 9 mpg for 52 games this season, but in his lone start at center against the Lakers he played 27 minutes scoring 4 pts/ 7 rebs/ 2 blks. Millsap is averaging 17 pts/ 7.7 rebs in 34 mpg shooting 53% field and 33% from three. Jefferson has started all 76 games, but the last one was the only one where he started at PF instead of Center. At PF he still was right on his season average of 19 pts/ 9.7 rebs/ 1.9 blks on 50% from the field. Miles has stepped up his game since being moved to SG, and is shooting 6pts above his season average of 13 pts/ 3.3 rebs, but he's played 41 mpg over the last two games. Watson is averaging 4 pts/ 3.4 asts for the season, but his mpg have doubled since he moved into the starting spot and so have his stat. Hayward and Favors have also seen more scoring as their minutes have nearly doubled.
Jefferson is still the man to stop if you're going to beat the Jazz. DeMarcus had an 18 pt/ 18 reb game against Millsap but I doubt he can do the same against Jefferson and Fesenko might be a little too big and long for him. I think we need to put Cousins on Jefferson and send Sammy to help if Al goes off, and make Jefferson become a distributor out of the double team. I'm also concerned that Millsap it too big for Cisco and they just might try to post up Cisco. Donte is big enough and tall enough if they try to post him up, and I think Garcia and Omri can give Hayward trouble. So, I'd start Dalembert, Cousins and Greene, and I'd start Tyreke and Beno. Beno played 43 minutes and scored 16 pts in the last game while Harris was held to 14 and Watson 4.
There is no schedule for the Jazz to get their injured players back, and this may be their best chance of breaking their current losing streak. I expect them to come out with a lot of energy, and the Kings better be ready to answer back. Fesenko is a bruiser but Sammy is as tough as they come. And I think our bench is going to destroy theirs. DeMarcus seems to be fading as the season winds down, and we may need to rest him more since he'll have a tough match with either Jefferson or Fesenko. Of course with a 4 game road trip and home games against OK City and the Lakers, this might be the last chance for the Kings to get a win again this season. Go for 22 guys.
(This is a FanPost from a member of the Sactown Royalty community. The views expressed come from the member, and not Sactown Royalty staff.)