Pump Up Music: Rise Against -- "Give It All"
The Big Picture: The Utah Jazz have been a mixed bag this year. While they still have Deron Williams to lead the way, with Carlos Boozer, Paul Millsap, and Mehmet Okur a fantastic big man rotation, some of their key cogs have missed time and they simply haven't put it all together. The way they've been playing recently, they don't look like a championship contender, but this same cast of characters was a nominal title contender each of the past couple years.
It remains to be seen if their young players, Wes Matthews and Eric Maynor, can be difference makers, but Matthews is starting (and getting starter's minutes!), while Maynor has settled in as the second unit's point guard.
Last night, in Atlanta, Jerry Sloan benched his starters as they were getting blown out by the Hawks in the third quarter, and no starter played more than 24 minutes, so they won't be as worn down as most teams are on the second half of a back to back.
Key to Victory: The Jazz have a couple of fire hydrants in Boozer and Millsap, short-ish, solid, guys who can't easily be moved off their spots. The Bobcats don't have anyone who's made a living by muscling in the post, and I worry that our decided lack of bulk will be a problem in the half court offense when the Jazz work the ball to their big men at the elbows.
Watch how Boozer, especially, gets the ball there with his back to the basket, and then guards and wing players streak past him to the goal, using him as a screen. His defender can either stick with Boozer and let the other guy dive to the basket unimpeded, allowing Boozer to pass him the ball for an easy layup. Or the defender can back off and help on the cutter, allowing Boozer to turn around and either shoot an elbow jumper, pass to another cutter, put the ball on the floor and drive the lane, or kick it back out to start all over again. If Boris Diaw won't be steamrolled by his heftier opponents, and he causes problems for the power forwards as they make decisions in the high post, the Jazz will have to play a different kind of offensive game that isn't necessarily suited to their personnel.
Detail That May Interest .08% of You: Carlos Boozer is one of three NBA players in history to have attended high school in Alaska. The other two? Mario Chalmers and fellow Dukie Trajan Langdon.