Utah Jazz (21-38, 7-22 road) @ Milwaukee Bucks (11-47, 6-24 home)
Tip Off @ 6:00 p.m. MST
Regular Season Series 2 of 2 (Jazz 1-0)
After Gordon Hayward’s long three came up just short yesterday, the Utah Jazz lost a hard fought battle on the road against the East-leading Indiana Pacers. Even though the Jazz ended up on the losing end, it was possibly the best game they had played all season. The win over the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder are obviously in that conversation as well. Now the Jazz go from playing one of the best teams in the NBA, to playing the worst team in the NBA in the Milwaukee Bucks.
Back in December, fans and experts were predicting that with the way the season had started, that these two teams would be battling each other for the number one pick in the upcoming draft. That is not even close to the case anymore as the Bucks continued playing poorly, and the Jazz actually became a pretty good team. As bad as the Bucks have been this season, they are a team that can surprise you, especially at home.
Earlier this season, the Jazz hosted the Bucks at Energy Solutions Arena and held on for a nine point win, 96-87. Most fans would think that the Jazz would win by more than nine, but the Bucks can be a pretty pesky team. Tonight’s game could be tougher than people realize, as the Jazz don’t have a great road record and also seem to not play as great when playing bad teams, which not many teams do.
Key Matchup: Gordon Hayward vs Giannis Antetokounmpo
Hayward has seem to come out of his shooting slump a bit in this last week. After struggling mightily from the floor, Hayward has come out an averaged 18.7 points per game over his last three games. Yesterday, while visiting the Pacers in his home state of Indiana, Hayward ended up with 21 points overall. That game was the first game that Hayward finished with 20 or more points since January 21st.
Tonight, Hayward will have a matchup against a young player, but a very athletic and long player. Antetokounmpo kind of has a look to him like a young Kevin Durant. I’m not saying he will become Durant, but he has the same kind of body frame and has a lot of potential. Last time the Jazz and Bucks met, Antetokounmpo had a solid game, finishing with 10 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. In that game, he also shot well above his season average when he connected on 50% from the field. On the season, he is shooting 36% from the field.
Hayward, as mentioned, is looking to be breaking out of his slump. Tonight he might have a bit of a challenge getting what he wants. Antetokounmpo is very long and could disrupt Hayward’s shot a little bit. I take Hayward in the matchup because he is a better overall player, but Antetokounmpo is a guy that is on his way to becoming a very good player in this league.
This game is one that the Jazz should easily win. The key word there being “should”. The Jazz are a better team than the Bucks, but if they decide to play down to their competition, the Jazz will be in trouble tonight. Trey Burke will be in a tough match up against Brandon Knight, who is leading the Bucks with 17.0 points and 5.0 assists per game this season. Knight has been on a roll the last 10 games though, averaging 20.3 points and 6.1 assists in that span, including a 30 point and 8 assists game against the Pacers.
Derrick Favors was a beast yesterday in Indiana, finishing with 17 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 big time blocks. The Jazz are a completely different and much better defensive team with him on the floor. One of the key reasons to why Favors was so successful yesterday is because he got Roy Hibbert into early foul trouble. With Hibbert sitting on the bench, Favors was able to take advantage. I expect the same kind of outing tonight for Favors.
In his postgame interview yesterday, Marvin Williams was asked a question regarding the young guys on the team. Marvin responded with this to say, “That lineup that got us back in the game and kept us in the game, that is the future of Utah.” The young core of Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Enes Kanter is going to be special. They need to be playing on the court more all together. Coach Corbin typically hasn’t let them stay on the court that long together. Yesterday he let them go and it showed how much they can produce and how much potential they have. Hopefully tonight we get to see more of that.
Jazz 105, Bucks 92