|2008/2009 NBA Regular Season|
|March 15th, 2009|
|Deron Williams||PG||Rafer Alston|
|Ronnie Brewer||SG||Courtney Lee|
|C.J. Miles||SF||Hedo Turkoglu|
|Carlos Boozer||PF||Rashard Lewis|
|Mehmet Okur||C||Dwight Howard|
|December 14th: Magic 103, Jazz 94|
The Utah Jazz enter tonight's game against the Orlando Magic on a two-game losing streak, having lost in triple-overtime yesterday in Miami, a loss so horrifying that some Jazz fans have purchased the movie rights (or something). Prior to this skid, Utah had quietly won 12 straight games. The fact that its record stands at 41-25 is a testament to the brilliance of its coach, Jerry Sloan, who has had to constantly adjust his lineup this season in order to account for injuries to key rotation players. In 66 games, Utah's been able to start its preferred lineup of Deron Williams, Ronnie Brewer, C.J. Miles, Carlos Boozer, and Mehmet Okur a total of 9 times. That's rough.
"Rough" also describes the Jazz's reputation. They foul at an astonishing rate--26th in the league in free throw rate allowed. Yet Steve Luhm of the Salt Lake Tribune says the reputation is based on prior iterations of Sloan-coached teams, and that this year's squad isn't particularly tough or nasty:
Those days are long gone, however, and this team is not physical or intimidating. In fact, the Jazz's lack of physical toughness is the one thing they lack that other top-tier teams possess.
Against Atlanta, the Jazz got smacked around from the start and did not respond, except for a brief stretch of the third quarter. The Hawks were more physical and, for the most part, Utah offered little resistance.
Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo! Sports says the Jazz's defense isn't too great, either:
Teams can still take it to Utah's defense. The Jazz don't recover all that well, and even though they're at about the middle of the road in terms of three-point defense, they'll toss in more than a few games like tonight, where the Pacers lit it up. On the other end, the Pacers may have actually pulled out the win had they not turned the ball over so much, finishing the night with 22 miscues.
Once again, the Magic need to get the ball to Dwight Howard and see what happens. If the Jazz put him on the line, they put him on the line. Worst case scenario: Dwight misses some free throws, but Okur gets in foul trouble. Okur's one of the centers who can give Dwight trouble defensively, since he's a great three-point shooter (44.8% this season, which is almost as good as Jameer Nelson). Dwight hates to leave the paint. Getting Okur out of the game should be a priority.
The biggest priority has to be closing Utah out, though. Orlando struggled to put Boston away last Sunday, blew a late lead in Detroit on Monday (what else is new?), and had to hang on to beat the Washington freakin' Wizards on Friday. As SLC Dunk, SB Nation's Jazz blog, illustrates, Utah's shown an incredible ability to make late runs in order to win games, usually with 8 minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
Don't forget that the game tips at 6 PM, an hour earlier than usual. And make sure to keep your TV on after the game, because Whit Watson will count down the top 20 moments in Orlando Magic history starting at 9. Go Magic.