As the Utah Jazz come off of a hard-fought loss against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night, they will be hosting the Charlotte Bobcats tonight at ESA.
With the status of Andrei Kirilenko still hanging in the balance, it is going to be difficult to predict an outcome, especially with the Bobcats’ versatile players (Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw, Gerald Wallace).
Also, with the Bobcats’ unpredictability lately, you never know which team is going to show up. They have lost back-to-back games to the Clippers and Bucks, yet they beat the Eastern Conference-leading Cavs by 17. Did I mention that this team accounts for 40% of the New Jersey Nets‘ wins, as they have lost twice to the 5-win joke from New Jersey?
Since a prediction would just be a waste of time, let’s examine 3 main players that make up this wacky team and how they would match up with the opposing Jazz players.
Running the point for the Bobcats is Raymond Felton. He is a good young point guard with a decent jump shot. His numbers are not that impressive, but he is a reliable and durable option for Charlotte, as he has started all 54 games for the Bobcats this season. If Deron Williams wants to be successful against Felton, he will need to pressure him at all times. If he leaves Felton alone for too long, Felton can make him pay all night long by draining shots. Also, Williams needs to use his size advantage to his benefit. He has 2 inches and about 20 pounds on Felton, which can be a big difference if used correctly. As long as Williams shows Felton who’s boss, the Jazz should be fine in the point guard match up.
The one player who has really taken his game to the next level this season is Gerald Wallace. Wallace is a Jack-of-all-trades kind of guy, who can hurt the opposition in all aspects of the game. He can score, rebound, and defend with the best of ‘em. Whoever is stuck taking him for Utah, they will surely have their hands full. Based on the way Wallace has played so far this season, I believe that it is nearly impossible to stop this guy completely, as he can hurt you in so many ways. However, if you want to limit this guy the most, you need to body him up, and keep him away from the basket. He is a very active player, who is always leaping towards the basket, either with the ball or going for it on a rebound. If I was Jerry Sloan, I would instruct my players to take the ball up strong on Wallace, in hopes of getting him into foul trouble early. The less time he is on the floor, the better.
The last player I am going to examine is Stephen Jackson. Jackson, like the Bobcats, is unpredictable, specifically when it comes to shooting. Some nights he can shoot lights-out, nailing threes all night long. Other nights, though, he can shoot 1-16 from the field, as he did in his last game against the Clippers. Jackson is tough because he can cause matchup problems with his 6″8 frame at the shooting guard position. If the Jazz have to defend him with the likes of Wesley Matthews, who is only 6″5, Jackson could be the player that the Bobcats feed the most. Jackson is accustomed to scoring in bunches, as he is averaging over 20 points per game, so the Jazz better be prepared with a good game plan in order to slow him down.
Overall, I think that this is going to be an interesting game. If Kirilenko does not end up playing, I could see the Bobcats giving the Jazz a lot of trouble because of their length. If Kirilenko does play, though, the Jazz will be in a lot better position, especially defensively. Coming off of a loss, I feel that it is important for the Jazz to come away with a victory in this game. The Western Conference is very tight right now, and the Jazz want to remain in a top-4 spot come playoff time. The more games they play at ESA, the better chance they will have at going deep in the postseason.
– In their last meeting, D-Will and Booze led the Jazz with 23 and 22 points respectively.
– The Jazz beat the Bobcats by 8 in mid-December.
– The Jazz are 22-8 at home this season.
– Felton has 4 FG with under 24 seconds in one-possession games this season, which is second to Kobe and CP3’s 5.