The Utah Jazz earned the fifth overall seed heading into the Las Vegas Summer League tournament. Tournament play began on Wednesday afternoon, but the Jazz were awarded a first round bye, and were set to begin their road to a summer league championship on Thursday. The question was, who would the Jazz face?
The winner of the San Antonio Spurs and Milwaukee Bucks was going to be awarded the chance to play the Jazz in the next round, and the Spurs handily took care of the Bucks and will meet the Jazz beginning at 4:00 p.m. MST from the Thomas & Mack Center.
The Jazz will take on a Spurs team who is averaging 81.0 points per game in route to their 3-1 summer league record. Besides points per game, however, the Jazz really beat the Spurs in every statistical category.
The Spurs are averaging 38.3 rebounds per game, while the Jazz are averaging 42.0 rebounds per game. The Spurs average 14.0 assists per game, while the Jazz have the advantage their as well with 18.5 per game. The Jazz also lead the Spurs in steals per game, (8.0 vs 6.0), and blocks per game, (6.0 vs 3.3).
So if the Jazz lead in nearly every statistical category, it should mean a Utah Jazz victory, right? That could be true, but their is one statistic that the Spurs have a big advantage over the Jazz that could be a difference maker in the game.
When it comes to basketball, whether it’s the NBA, College Basketball, High School, or even pick up games, the team that typically wins is the team that can take care of the ball. The Spurs are fantastic in this aspect. In four summer league contests, the Spurs are only averaging a total of 9.3 turnovers per game. The Jazz on the other hand, have had a difficult time controlling the ball, as they have committed 19.0 turnovers per game in three summer league contests.
With the Spurs rarely committing turnovers, it becomes a big advantage for them, however, the Jazz have played very well on the defensive end of the court, coming up with steals, blocks, and controlling the defensive boards. The defense has also been much better when Rudy Gobert has been on the court. In the Jazz’s last game against the Denver Nuggets, the first quarter was a struggle without Gobert in the game to control the paint. Gobert missed the last game with a shoulder injury. However, the second quarter began, and the defense turned up, and the Jazz controlled the rest of the game.
In three games, the Jazz have progressed after each night. The points per game, assists, rebounds, and more, have seen an increase night in and night out. With that being said, it looks as though the Jazz haven’t faced a team so far this summer quite like the Spurs, which makes it almost sound exactly like a regular season match up.
The Spurs have players at every position. First round draft pick, Kyle Anderson, enters tonight after coming off a 14 point performance over the Bucks. The Spurs also have Austin Daye, Jeff Ayres, Bryce Cotton, Vander Blue, and Melvin Ejim on their summer league roster, all of whom can score the basketball.
The Jazz will have to counter by having every player on the court contribute consistently. So far in this summer league, the Jazz have gotten an inconsistent effort from the guard play of Trey Burke and Dante Exum, severely inconsistent performance shooting wise from rookie Rodney Hood, and hopefully will see Gobert return to the court, as he has been one of the most consistent players for the Jazz in summer league.
The winner of the Jazz and Spurs game will move on to the quarterfinals of the Las Vegas Summer League tournament, and will face the winner of the Miami Heat and Washington Wizards game. The loser will play on Friday as well, but will face the loser of the Portland Trail Blazers and Atlanta Hawks game.