After a 103-100 loss to the New York Knicks, a game in which Sacramento proved they can still find new ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, the Kings have set out in search of victory and settled into Utah to take on the Jazz. In what now must be a recurring nightmare for Jazz coach Quin Snyder, this entire first quarter of the season has been about injuries to the starters for Utah. While absolutely crushed with injuries, the Jazz have still maintained a record over .500 in an unforgiving Western Conference and doing so by playing absolutely stifling defense. Saturday night’s game should be a good test of Dave Joerger’s offense scheming while also providing the Kings a glimpse of the defense they should be working towards. Let’s talk Kings basketball!
When: Saturday, December 10th: 6:00pm PST
Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena, CSN-CA, KHTK Sports 1140
Breaking Down the Jazz
Offense: For the mess of injuries the Jazz have had to deal with this season, it’s a bit surprising how efficient the offensive side of the Jazz can be on a given night. Missing scorers like Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Rodney Hood and Derrick Favors, as well as the best distributor on their team in George Hill, one might expect just absolute disaster on the season and yet, the Jazz are 14-10 and sitting pretty at 7th in the Western Conference. The Jazz are a team that doesn’t do a great amount of scoring at just a fraction over 100 points a game, and their fear of waking and angering the ghosts that seem to curse them has the Jazz playing at the slowest pace in the league, but when they do score, it’s rather efficiently. They’re 11th in the league in three point percentage at 35.8% and also take the 9th most threes, while also being 3rd in the NBA in two point percentage at 51.8% (where they take the 5th least amount of two pointers), 13th in free throw percentage at 77.6% and also the 10th best team in the league at taking care of the basketball, where they turn the ball over just 12.5 times a game. The Jazz are an excellent blueprint on how to build a balanced offense that isn’t focused on a singular talent, and it does a great job of doing enough to compliment the defense that the Jazz have the ability to play.
Defense: The Jazz are a great defensive team. Coming into Saturday’s game against the Kings the Jazz have allowed their opponents to score an average of 96 points per game, that being the lowest number in the league. While they allow teams to shoot 36.4% from behind the arc (24th in the league) the Jazz keep teams from taking three pointers, where their opponents shoot the second fewest three pointers in the league. Inside the three, opponents meet Rudy Gobert and an inside presence that forces teams into shooting the lowest percentage from inside the arc at 45.9%. The Jazz are a team that isn’t going to gamble much and are happier staying home on their guy then trying for a steal, a category in which they are the third worst in the NBA in. The Jazz are also 6th in the league in defensive rebounding and 11th in blocks, so it will be interesting to see how the Kings handle the length and athleticism of the Jazz.
Kings Focus: The Kings are going to get themselves a lot more two point shots than three point shots tonight and it will be up to DeMarcus to keep composed and break the Utah defense from inside the painted area. The Jazz are 18th in the league in player fouls so there is a solid chance that DeMarcus could be spending an extended amount of time at the foul line. Also working to his advantage is the anomaly that the Utah Jazz are the second worst offensive rebounding team in the league. Great defense, top 10 in defensive rebounding but the Jazz will allow the Kings to get second chances at scoring if they want. With all their various injuries it’s difficult to project just who the Kings will have to match up with defensively but George Hill is going to be the deciding factor in this game if he ends up playing. Having an absolutely great season for the Jazz, George Hill is averaging 20 points, 4.2 assists and shooting 58% from inside the arc, and 46% behind it where he’s taking over 5 a game. The guy has been great and containing him will be the key to the game on the defensive end for the Kings. In the chance that he isn’t, well then Shelvin Mack and Dante Exum will be a bit of a reprieve from might have been coming down the pike. If I had to pick that random guy that goes off against the Kings: Joe Ingles. No question. The guy is nearly invisible in the League but his name will get called and suddenly he’ll end up scoring 21 with 5 boards, 4 assists and 4 steals with 5 threes on the Kings. So watch Joe Ingles. Or else.
Prediction: The Utah Jazz lone starter, Rudy Gobert, will come down with the flu right before game time. Five bench players will get hurt in a pile up during layup lines. The final few players will get scared and refuse to play. So the Kings will just hold an impromptu scrimmage instead.
Kings (Purple team): 101, Kings (Blue team): 94