Two days after the Utah Jazz laid an egg on Martin Luther King Day against the Washington Wizards, the Jazz will try and regroup against the New Jersey Nets; another bottom-feeder in the Eastern Conference. Right now the Nets have a record of 10-31, and they are the second worst team in the Eastern Conference, only ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers. If Jazz fans learned anything on MLK Day it is that their team cannot take any opponent lightly, and their team must show up if they want to be victorious.
Although the Nets have an atrocious record, they do possess some players who can help the team win on any given night. In fact, the Nets probably have one of the best point guard and center combinations in the league with Devin Harris and Brook Lopez. Many teams would kill for a combination of talent like that at those positions, yet the Nets cannot seem to achieve much with those two players in place. What that shows is that it takes more than mere talent for a team to be successful in the NBA. What truly separates the men from the boys in the NBA are the teams that have both talent AND chemistry. Without one of those ingredients, a team cannot be a top contender in the league. They can win against any team on any night though, and that is what the Nets are hoping for on Wednesday night against the Jazz. They are hoping that for just 48 minutes their talent can outperform the Jazz, and they can walk out of the Prudential Center with their 11th win of the season. Jerry Sloan and the Utah Jazz have other plans.
If you are the Jazz and a top team in the Western Conference battling for homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs (at least), you cannot be losing games to the Wizards. Of course every team has a few hiccups in a long NBA season, but the goal is to try to avoid those hiccups against the really bad teams in the league. Now I’m not trying to offend the Washington Wizards by talking about their inferiority (their record already does that for them). What I am trying to do, though, is show the importance of the games that the Jazz are “supposed” to win. Obviously everybody in the Jazz organization realizes the huge mistake that they committed by losing to the Wizards on Monday, but they cannot allow that to affect them in a negative way against the Nets. Instead the Jazz need to use that as fuel for a solid performance and a possible blowout.
If you are not familiar with the Nets roster, here is their starting five and how they have performed up to this point in the season:
- Devin Harris - Harris is averaging slightly over 16 points per game and 7 assists per game. Recently he has been dealing with a quad injury, which could be the reason why his numbers have dropped off a little bit lately. Despite that, he is always a threat to strike, and Deron Williams better be ready to keep up with the quick point guard.
- Stephen Graham - Graham is averaging 3.8 points per game and 2.2 rebounds per game. He doesn’t do too much on the offensive end, and he shouldn’t be much of a concern for the Jazz defensively. In fact, he has not made a 3-pointer yet this season. If he scores 10 points, consider it a bad defensive outing by the Jazz.
- Travis Outlaw - Outlaw, in his first season with the Nets after being traded by the Portland Trail Blazers, is averaging 10 points per game and 4.5 rebounds per game. Outlaw can score the basketball, yet he has had some trouble doing so recently. In his last 5 games Outlaw has only had double-digits in points one time, when he scored 11 against his former Blazers. Regardless of his recent struggles, the Jazz cannot forget to guard him on the perimeter.
- Derrick Favors – Favors is averaging 6.5 points per game and 5 rebounds per game in his rookie season with the Nets. Although his numbers seem alright for a rookie, he is definitely not performing like the team had hoped for thus far. He has not scored in 2 of his last 3 games, and he has not played many minutes even though he has been added to the starting lineup. How he will perform on any night still seems like a mystery to me, but I can almost be certain that it won’t be too spectacular.
- Brook Lopez – Lopez leads the team in points with 19 a game, but he is under-performing as a rebounder with only 5.9 per game. Standing at 7-feet tall Brook Lopez should be dominating the glass, yet that is not the case. His offensive game is very good right now, but he needs to start rebounding the ball if he wants to be considered one of the top centers in the league. On the positive side for Lopez, he is using his height on the defensive end, where he is averaging 1.5 blocks per game.
Stat Nugget Of The Day
The Jazz are 13-1 when CJ Miles scores 15 points or more.