3-on-3: Wizards at Jazz: Utah, but I’m Taller
The Washington Wizards are in Salt Lake City tonight. The Jazz, having lost games to New Orleans and Oklahoma City on consecutive nights, will try to avoid a third straight loss at the hands of the Wizards. Washington is looking to bounce back after a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday to stay above .500 on a five-game road West Coast road swing. For tonight’s 3-on-3, Hardwood Paroxysm’s Clint Peterson (@Clintonite33) joins TAI’s Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) and, yours truly, John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend). Three questions, three answers starts now … Get it on!
#1) In the last 25 games in Utah, Washington is 6-19 but has won 3 out of last 7, which includes last season’s 100-95 OT victory. The Jazz are 11-5 at home while Wizards are 3-11 on the road. The Wizards had a non travel day off in Salt Lake City on Thursday and Jazz have not played since Tuesday so both teams should be well rested. Vegas has Utah favored by 10 points. Can the Wizards cover the spread or win straight up and why?
CLINT PETERSON: They sure could cover, maybe even win. The Jazz may be rested, but this is when they tend to come out rusty. On two days rest Utah is scoring only 96.3 points per game (PPG), their second-worst stat split in the category, while the Wiz are dropping nearly 101 PPG on the road this season. Throw in various matchup problems from the athletic JaVale McGee to the stretch of Rashard Lewis to the prolific Nick Young to the fact that opposing point guards have been laying waste to the Jazz’s backcourt and Washington matching their road winning record to their home one, at four, would be little surprise to the realist.
JOHN CONVERSE TOWNSEND: February hasn’t been kind to the Utah Jazz, who have dropped to .500 after losing seven of their last nine games this month, after beginning the season 12-7. It’s been the opposite story for the resurgent Wizards—too generous?—who have won three of their last six, one win short of their total for the rest of the season (four), and are looking more like a professional basketball team with each passing day. I expect the Wizards to cover the spread, but I’d have to hedge my bets before picking the road team to win in Utah.
KYLE WEIDIE: Washington’s chances are contingent on JaVale McGee. Utah’s stating bigs, Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, provide the bread and butter, literally. Both have the type of grounded stature that could allow McGee to better protect the paint with shot-blocking presence, as long as he is focused and disciplined. Jazz opponents have 166 blocks against them this season, that’s seventh highest in the league. I say the Wizards cover the spread, but fall short of the win column.
#2) Two BBVA Rising Stars, Wizards guard John Wall and Jazz forward Gordon Hayward, will meet at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah tonight. Which player will have the better line?
PETERSON: Utah hasn’t been able to contain the competition very well when it comes to the point, the first line of attack. Devin Harris often comes out appearing uninterested at times, especially on defense, and Earl Watson’s ankle is still twice the size it should be after a nasty twist a couple of weeks ago, keeping him from being as effective as he’d been earlier in the year. Someone asked me earlier today what I thought John Wall might do. I have him with 25 and 9 tonight. Not sure the as-yet-inconsistent Hayward can top that, even with Sir Round Mound watching closely after picking him in last night’s All-Star Rookie-Soph game.
If Wall is allowed to waltz into the paint at will the Wiz could go away winners, going away. If Hayward has one of those all-around games he capable of, hitting from the perimeter, cutting, driving and facilitating, Washington will in turn have trouble containing Ty Corbin’s flex offense.
TOWNSEND: Both Rising Stars will need to play well to give their team another taste of victory. Gordon Hayward’s improved since his rookie season, and his numbers show it; Hayward has increased his averages in points (+4.4), rebounding (+1.2), and assists (+2.2), but doing so with almost 12 additional minutes per game. But I have to go with John Wall to standout in the box score (and the highlight reel). Wall has been almost impossible to stop, even when his scoring output has taken a dip, averaging 11.5 assists in his last four games.
WEIDIE: Wall will have a better line than Hayward. For one, this is the first chance Wall will have to take out any frustration after not being taken until 12th by Barkley for the Rising Stars Challenge. The one time Wall and Harris faced off, both players laid up a stinker scoring-wise (Wall – 5 points, 2-8 FGs, 9 assists, 0 turnovers; Harris – 4 points, 1-7 FGs, 3 assists, 2 turnovers), but Wall’s Wizards won (over Harris’ Nets). I just don’t think Harris is equipped to defend him. Secondly, I’m predicting a bounce-back game of sorts for Chris Singleton. The hope is that his defensive pride gets a boost to stop his fellow rookie in Hayward.
#3) The Jazz have one of the better second units in the NBA, ranked fifth in the league, scoring 36.6 points per game—Utah scores 95.6 points per game. How important is it for the Wizards to contain the Jazz bench?
PETERSON: The overall numbers are a little deceiving here; that stout Jazz bench has been stuck in a rut of late, finding little in the way of offense since Josh Howard, the primary scorer for that bunch in so many games previous sat out a few games injured, not regaining his touch since. It doesn’t help that the aforementioned Earl kankle is killin’ him keeping the secondary offense from moving as it could. Young guns Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter have also lost all rhythm together of late, a mirror of the starting bigs, Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, causing Corbin to start mixing and matching his frontcourt lineup, searching for the right recipe.
It will also be interesting to see if Corbin opts to give rookie Alec Burks, CJ Miles’ minutes again, as he did last outing. In any case, the Jazz are kinda feeling around in the dark at the moment, so expect to see more experimentation tonight.
TOWNSEND: Washington’s second unit needs to be able to hang with Utah’s bench, which scores more than a third of their total points per game. Doing so will require the Wizards to do what they do best: get out and run. A transition-based approach will play to the strengths of Jan Vesely and Jordan Crawford, while hiding the shortcomings of Rashard Lewis (basketball ability) and Kevin Seraphin (basketball ability and size), particularly against the likes of Enes Kanter.
WEIDIE: The bench unit will probably win the game for Utah. With guys like Earl Watson, Josh Howard and C.J. Miles, the Jazz simply have more experience (sure, add Jamaal Tinsley to that group if you want). Plus, their young bigs off the bench, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, are more stout and capable in the post than anyone Randy Wittman can turn to.