by Brandon Quinones
The Jazz are looking to extend their perfect home record on Monday against the Washington Wizards. The Wizards currently sit at number 13 in the East with a record of 19-33 and are 4-6 in their last 10 games. Although Washington has been struggling this year, they boast one of the most dynamic backcourts in the entire league in Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal. This tandem led the Wizards to a 131-122 win versus the Jazz on March 18, 2021.
Meanwhile, the Jazz head into this one boasting the league’s best record at 40-13. They are also 8-2 in their last 10 games. They are looking for revenge over the Wizards. Before diving into some keys for the game, it is important to note that the Jazz have listed Jordan Clarkson as doubtful for tomorrow as he continues to recover from a right ankle sprain and Mike Conley has been listed as questionable due to his hamstring injury management. For the Wizards, Bradley Beal has been listed as probable with back tightness. Let’s take a look at three keys that can lead to a Jazz win over the Wizards.
1. Mitchell leading the way with Conley/Clarkson out
With Conley already ruled out and Clarkson likely ruled out as well, it will be interesting to see how Utah can fill the voids left by two of their top playmakers. One way to do it is to continue the lead of Donovan Mitchell, who has been on an absolute tear as of late. Mitchell has averaged 40 points per game over his last three games and. The Jazz will need him to do the same in this one as they are slated to lose 33.8 in ppg with Conley and Clarkson out. If Mitchell is able to continue his scoring outburst, it would go a long way in keeping the offense going and running efficiently. As Mitchell continues to have his way offensively, it will only continue to create more space and free up scoring opportunities for his teammates.
With that being said, this matchup may require a complete team effort from the Jazz offensively. For one, as good and important as Mitchell is offensively, he will likely be tasked with also guarding one of Beal or Westbrook. He is already set to have plenty of work cut out for him. This is where the rest of the team must step up offensively so that Mitchell is able to also lock in defensively. He needs to have enough gas to close out the game should they need him to. Expect plenty of playmaking from Joe Ingles and a good amount of usage from Bojan Bogdanovic as well. Something working in favor of the Jazz is that the Wizards currently allow the most points-per-game from their opponents. This game could be set for an offensive firework display. The Jazz will still have plenty of options offensively in Mitchell, Ingles, Bogdanovic, and Gobert. As good as Westbrook and Beal are, the Jazz can spread the wealth offensively. If they do so, it will be difficult for Washington to keep up all game long.
2. Controlling the pace
It is no secret how dangerous the Beal/Westbrook tandem is. One way they control the game is by leading the league in pace at 103.9. The Jazz will have their hands full trying to prevent that duo from exploding. They currently combine for 52.5 points-per-game. One way to offset that is by controlling the pace. By controlling the flow of the game, it will make it more difficult for Beal and Westbrook to get into a rhythm. That therefore limits potential scoring outbursts, This task is easier said than done since these are two well-established superstars in this league who are capable of single-handedly taking over games. If the Jazz are able to stay solid defensively and moving the ball and taking good shots on the other end, they will make it difficult for Beal and Westbrook to be able to get into a rhythm. The two combined for 78 points in their win against the Jazz this season. If the Jazz can limit them to their per game average of 52.5 ppg, they will have a great chance of winning this ballgame. The Jazz are the deeper and better coached team.
3. Winning the turnover battle
One great way for the Jazz to set the tone in this game is taking care of the basketball. They also need to pressure the Wizards into making unforced errors. The Wizards currently commit the ninth most turnovers per game. This is something that the Jazz should focus on exploiting. If they can force the Wizards to commit turnovers, it will make it difficult for their offense to get into any sort of rhythm. This will likely lead to easy buckets in transition for the Jazz. Although the Jazz rank number 27 in points off turnovers, they should work to create turnovers that will lead to excellent looks on the offensive end. The Wizards rank 27th in points allowed off of turnovers so that makes it even more crucial for the Jazz to pressure this Washington team. The Wizards do not have a strong defense. If the Jazz are able to limit their opponent’s offensive opportunities, it should lead to a strong win for the Jazz. It will lead to easy scoring opportunities, plenty of chances to draw fouls, and ultimately throw the Wizards off of their offensive rhythm and game plan.
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