Coming off of their second win in a row, the Utah Jazz are ready to host the Atlanta Hawks tonight. These two teams battled back in November when the Jazz overcome a double-digit deficit in the 4th quarter to win 90-86. Just like Utah’s previous two games against Detroit and Memphis, the game could have gone either way in the closing minutes of the game, yet the Jazz were the team who showed the poise to get it done. With the Jazz up by 2 points with under 10 seconds remaining, Al Horford, a near 82% free throw shooter this season, missed a pair of free throws that eventually sealed Atlanta’s fate.
In that game, the Hawks had two players, Joe Johnson and Josh Smith, who scored at least 20 points. In addition, Jamal Crawford chipped in 14 points off the bench. Although Joe Johnson led the Hawks in points with 23, Josh Smith was the guy who seemed to cause the biggest matchup problems for the Jazz. Smith shot 8-11 from the field, and he was scoring in many different ways. Odds are that Smith, a 47.5% shooter this season, will not shoot as well as he did in this contest, but there is a good chance that he will cause problems for the Jazz once again. His versatility is difficult for many teams to deal with, and it is going to be interesting to see if the Jazz have any new tactics for slowing him down tonight.
One key stat that really stands out from their last meeting was Utah’s lack of turnovers. The Jazz committed only 9 turnovers in that game, and it was extremely important as they were in comeback mode. Had the Jazz threw away a few more possessions, they would have likely thrown away their chances at winning that game. The Hawks can be a very dangerous team on the offensive side of the ball, and too many turnovers against them will hurt a team’s chances of winning significantly. As long as Deron Williams can continue playing like a stellar point guard in this one, and he controls the tempo of the game, I don’t see the Jazz having too many problems protecting the rock. Will they have 9 turnovers or fewer? I doubt it. But look for the Jazz to have under 15 which is around the league average. (By the way, I just found out that the Jazz have the fewest turnovers per game. Go Jazz!)
On the offensive side of the ball, the Jazz just need to continue to play as they normally do. They are going to need around a 20-10 performance out of Williams, and they are going to need the other players to chip in the rest. CJ Miles, who scored 13 points in the first meeting with Atlanta, is going to be a crucial factor in this game as the Hawks have a solid sixth man of their own in Jamal Crawford. If Miles can offset or outplay Crawford, the Jazz will be in very good position to pull this game out. In addition to Miles, the rest of the Jazz bench, which has been very uplifting and energetic lately, will need to contribute like they’ve been. When the bench is clicking, and they get the home crowd involved, this team is tough to stop. Of course the starters are of great importance to the success of this team, but positive play from the bench takes them to a whole new level.
Before I end this post, I want to do an Add-A-Caption Contest. Below is a picture from the last time the Hawks and Jazz clashed. Specifically this picture was taken right after Al Horford missed a pair of free throws that basically cost the Hawks the game. What is Horford thinking? For extra fun, you can also say what Joe Johnson and Josh Smith are thinking. Winner will be mentioned on Twitter so leave your Twitter username if you have one. Good Luck!