This week’s games:
- Monday, December 8 – Sacramento Kings. Sleep Train Arena. 8:00 PM MT.
- Tuesday, December 9 – San Antonio Spurs. Energy Solutions Arena. 7:00 PM MT.
- Friday, December 12 – Miami Heat. Energy Solutions Arena. 7:00 PM MT.
- Sunday, December 14 – Washington Wizards. Verizon Center. 4:00 PM MT.
Game of the Week: Utah Jazz vs Miami Heat
LeBron James returns to Salt Lake City! The Big Three are coming to town!… Wait… No, that’s not right… Well, it’s still my game of the week. Miami still brings star power in Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Luol Deng. While they’re record may not be impressive (9-11), I think this is a team that will be fairly evenly matched with the Utah Jazz, making it a good game for the home crowd. Sure, the King isn’t walking through the door, but Miami is in an interesting place of trying to reestablishing themselves after losing their best player this past off-season. How about a little piece of history to make this interesting?
December 12, 1988: With a 110-94 loss to Utah at the Salt Palace, the Miami Heat set an NBA record for the most consecutive games lost at the start of a season with 17. The Los Angeles Clippers opened the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season with 17 straight defeats, tying the Heat’s mark.
A seventeen game losing streak… Well, if Utah can’t get wins against the Kings and Spurs, the Heat could potentially be loss number eleven in a row for the Jazz. The Jazz would be nearing a historical mark that fans and player alike don’t want any part of. So 26 years later, will Miami get their revenge? Will they finally get the payback they’ve been waiting for? Alright… Probably not what they’re thinking, but with Utah potentially on track to making the wrong kind of history, it is interesting to have the same two teams playing on the same day.
Player Focus: Gordon Hayward
Anyone who has watched the Jazz this season will tell you that Hayward is a completely different player from last year. His confidence appears to be high, and for good reason. He currently leads the team in points and steals. His shooting percentage is the highest it’s been since his rookie season, and he’s attempting more than three times the number of shots he was then. Points, rebounds, and steals are at career highs for the fifth-year pro. When it comes to this young Utah Jazz team, Hayward has established himself as a leader and has clearly been the best player on the team thus far into the season.
This week, Hayward will face a variety of players, who will challenge him in different ways. He’ll start the week against on offensive-driven Rudy Gay in Sacramento, followed by a match-up versus Kawhi Leonard. Leonard will be an intriguing test for Hayward, as the reigning NBA Finals MVP is one of the best young defenders in the league. He’ll close the week playing head-to-head against Luol Deng of the Miami Heat, another quality defender. If Hayward isn’t able to get the shots up that he usually does, he’ll have to find another way to help his team succeed. While I’d still like him to be aggressive on the offensive end and get his points, my hope is that Hayward also looks to get his teammates involved, much in the way that LeBron James does for Cleveland. While there will be challenges to score, I still expect Hayward to lead the team in points. He’s been playing at an all-star level up to this point, and I don’t see why a few challenges would change that. This is just another opportunity for Hayward to show how good he is.
Kings: While the Jazz have struggled mightily as of late, they catch a break regarding Monday’s match-up with the Kings – DeMarcus Cousins will be out for the game with viral meningitis. Cousins is Sacramento’s stats leader in points, rebounds, and blocks per game, and with Reggie Evans listed next on the depth chart, that’s a huge loss for the Kings. Ryan Hollins has gotten the start in place of Cousins, but that’s not any better than Reggie Evans. Still, the Kings do have the scoring ability of Rudy Gay and Darren Collison. While the Kings started the season 5-1, they’ve found their way back to .500, including losing five of their last six, which includes five home games during that span. While the Jazz haven’t given fans much to be excited about lately, they need this game. Should they lose in Sacramento, their losing streak will likely hit double-digits the next night. Watch for Favors to have a good night against the Sacramento bigs, but also keep an eye on the point guard match-up. Collison has scored 20 and 22 points in his last two games. Expect him to play a greater role in Sacramento’s offense with Cousins being out. – Jazz win, 103-101.
Spurs: San Antonio rolls into Salt Lake City after beating the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili missed that game, but the Spurs still coasted to victory. With no indications of injuries to either player and a few days of rest since that game, I don’t foresee Gregg Popovich resting any players for this game. The Spurs are good this year. The Spurs are always good. It doesn’t seem like too long ago, Utah has a lengthy loss-streak going against San Antonio, and I think you can expect that familiar feeling this night. While it will be enjoyable to see how the Jazz players match-up against some of the great NBA talent such as Parker, Ginobili, and Duncan, don’t get your hopes too high for a Jazz victory. – Jazz lose, 107-93.
Heat: As previously mentioned, this isn’t the same Miami team that the Jazz played a year ago – not even close. While the Heat may be struggling more than they have in recent years, they will still test the Jazz in Salt Lake City. Keep an eye on the Chris Bosh and Derrick Favors match-up. Bosh is leading Miami in points, rebounds, and blocks. If Favors can limit Bosh’s offensive effectiveness and beat him in the battle of the boards, the Jazz will have a good chance at this one. I could see this game going either way, but a weekend crowd should give the Jazz the boost they need in a close game. – Jazz win, 95-92.
Wizards: Washington has a great team this year. John Wall and Bradley Beal are one of the best young back-courts in the NBA. The front-court combination of Nene Hilario and Marcin Gortat is more than respectable. The addition of Paul Pierce this summer brought scoring and veteran leadership. I’d tell you that there’s a match-up to watch, but to be honest, the entire starting line-up has one-on-one battles to watch. Washington’s experienced bench is decent, including DeJuan Blair, Kris Humphries, and Andre Miller. This may be Utah’s toughest game this week, considering it is on the road against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. Sorry, but I don’t see the Jazz starting off this road-trip on the right foot. – Jazz lose, 105-96.
Jazz History: December 9, 1988
Jerry Sloan was named head coach of the Utah Jazz, replacing Frank Layden.
Bonus Jazz History:
This week actually has a lot of Jazz history, so why not check out a few other notable achievements?
December 11, 2006 – Jerry Sloan became the fifth coach in NBA history to record 1,000 wins. The Utah Jazz defeated the Dallas Mavericks 101-79 in Salt Lake City. Check out all the details of the game on ESPN.com.
December 13, 2000 – John Stockton recorded his 14,000th career assist. Stockton has nine assists in a 111-102 loss to Milwaukee. The second on the all-time assists leader-board? Jason Kidd, with 12,091 assists.
December 14, 1985 – The Utah Jazz retired Pete Maravich’s uniform #7. “Pistol” Pete averaged 24.2 ppg in 10 NBA seasons ending in 1979-80.