by Brandon Quinones
Today, the San Antonio Spurs will face off against the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City. This will be the first of two consecutive matches against each other for these clubs. They are also set to face off again on Wednesday night. This will be a competitive game for both sides with both teams competing for seeding in the Western Conference.
Both teams are dealing with significant injuries to key players who will miss Monday’s contest. The Jazz are set to be without Donovan Mitchell and Udoka Azubuike. They both are still recovering from ankle injuries. Mike Conley remains out after re-aggravating a hamstring injury several nights ago.
The Spurs are set to be without five of their top players. It will be important for the Jazz to capitalize on this opportunity to get a strong win at home. San Antonio will be without DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl (rest), Dejounte Murray who is day-to-day (knee), and both Trey Lyles and Derrick White (ankle).
The depth of these two teams will be tested in what will likely be a matchup that comes down to effort and a few standout performances from unlikely players. It’s time to dive in to three things the Jazz can do to secure the win.
1) Trusting Bojan, Joe, and Jordan offensively
With Mitchell and Conley remaining out for the Jazz, Utah must continue to trust the trio of Bogdanovic, Ingles, and Clarkson to carry the offensive workload. Over the last three games since Conley went out, the trio has connected for 48.3% of the team’s points. That is just under half of the team’s offensive output coming from these three players. In addition, they have also been handling the majority of the playmaking duties with the trio combining for 16 of the 20 total assists in Saturday’s win over the Raptors.
The best path to success for the Jazz will likely have to remain in the hands of what this trio can continue to accomplish offensively. It is important to note that the Spurs will be missing some of their better defenders in Murray and Poeltl. Knowing this, the Jazz should attack the paint. The Spurs rank 24th in the league in defense at the rim and they will be missing their top interior defender in Poeltl.
Gobert will likely be an immediate beneficiary of Poeltl’s absence and will create some pressure on the Spurs as they try to protect the paint in this matchup. One encouraging sign as of late is that Bogdanovic seems to be returning to form with impressive scoring displays from both behind the arc and creativity in the paint. He has averaged 26.7 points-per-game in his last three outings and should look to add to that number as he continues this hot stretch.
Between strong play from this impressive trio and San Antonio’s key defenders being out, the Jazz should look to have a strong offensive game behind the strength of these guys.
2) Getting off to a hot start
One of the keys to this game will be establishing the tone early in this game. It will be important for the Jazz to make sure that their guys create a good offensive flow early so that they are not exerting tons of energy to create easy looks.
With the Spurs missing so many options offensively, the Jazz do not want their opponent to gain confidence early in the game. It will be up to guys like Rudy Gay, Patty Mills, Keldon Johnson and Lonnie Walker IV to carry the offensive workload for the Spurs.
If Utah can control the flow of the game early on and not let any of these guys go on a hot stretch, they should be in good shape. Many of the Spurs players will have to do more than their usual share in the offense. The Jazz will want to try and put them away as soon as possible. In many games like this, some guys who do not usually play get more opportunities and some of them end up breaking out with key performances.
The Jazz must establish the tone early to ensure that does not happen. If they want to fight for the top seed in the West, this is a must win game against a team missing so much weaponry. If the Jazz are able to create much needed separation, they will likely be able to rest some of their key guys to prevent the risk of injuries and the need to play extensive minutes in this one.
3) Strong defensive pressure
It will be interesting to see what offensive approach the Spurs come out with in this one. The Jazz should be ready to work hard to create stops. As mentioned earlier, it will be critical to prevent scoring outbursts and limit them to inefficient nights.
The Spurs will lack a go-to option in this one. Therefore, the Jazz should focus on remaining solid defensively and avoiding unwise fouls. They should not give the Spurs easy opportunities to score.
If the Jazz can continue to play strong defense as they have been all year, they should be in good shape. The Spurs will have to work extremely hard to score. That might be difficult to do for 48 minutes when missing their top offensive options. There is no need to get fancy defensively in this one. There is just the need for more of the same from one of the top defensive teams in the league in the Jazz.
Featured image courtesy Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images