Utah Jazz (6-4) @ Miami Heat (2-5)
American Airlines Arena – November 12th @ 8:00pm ET (AUS – 12:00pm Sun 13th)
The Jazz have recently welcomed back star SF Gordon Hayward to their active roster, and he has returned in a blaze of glory. In the back court we have George Hill, who has missed Utah’s past 3 games, and has seen his numbers increase drastically over the seasons first few weeks. Dante Exum started in his place last game vs Orlando, and may be in line for additional time if Hill is unable to go. Rodney Hood starts at the SG slot and has helped keep the team afloat in Hayward’s absence. Derrick Favors is starting at the 4 and is building back towards his best after a delayed start to the season. The $100M man, Rudy Gobert, starts at the 5 slot. The Center match-up between Rudy and Whiteside will be critical to the result of this match.
Miami has had a relatively slow start to the season, and given their personnel, maybe this isn’t a surprise. The big dollar bookends in Dragic (16/4/6 on 45%) and Whiteside (18/15/2.5 on 54%) are holding up their end of the bargain. Miami is not a deep team, and Dragic injured his ankle in the Heat’s home loss to the Bulls – he’s listed as doubtful. If Dragic is unable to play, I would expect Josh Richardson to start in his place. Waiters has struggled as a starter and is better suited off the bench, and may find his way there once Richardson has had a few more games to get in game shape. Babbitt is a starter in name only, splitting time with James Johnson at the 4 – and they offer differing, albeit limited, skill sets. At the 3 is Justise Winslow – an excellent defender who is extremely raw offensively. He will have his hands full with Hayward on defence, and will be dared to shoot by the Jazz coaching staff. You may see cross matches here with Favors defending Winslow, and Hayward on Babbitt to chase him off the 3pt line.
Key Bench Guys:
Lyles has had a slow start to his sophomore campaign, averaging around 6 points on a paltry 28% shooting. As a prototypical stretch 4, he’ll need to see a few shots go down to get him going. Matching up against Miami’s mishmash of PF’s should give him a big opportunity to get untracked and set a season high.
Emerging as an early candidate for Sixth Man of the Year, Tyler Johnson is starting to show why the Heat FO thought so highly of him to match Brooklyn’s poison pill contract. Averaging 14/4/2 on 50% shooting through the early part of this season, TJ’s energy and tenacity off the bench is crucial to Miami’s success.
- UTA: Can Gobert limit Whiteside’s influence? An elite interior defender, Rudy will need to frustrate Hassan into dumb fouls and physical play – which he has shown can hurt his impact on games.
- MIA: Will Josh Richardson show up for the bench crew? He’s working his way back from an MCL knee injury, and has been slow to get up to speed through his first few games. His floor spacing ability allows Miami to be much more flexible, playing Winslow at the 4 where he is perhaps better suited. He had a big 4th quarter vs Chicago, and may be pressed into startng if Dragic can’t go.
- UTA: Assuming he plays, can George Hill continue his torrid start? Hill looks reborn in Utah with new found freedom on offence, and has made teams pay so far (20/3/5 on 54%).
- MIA: Is there a PF in the house? The Heat have struggled to get much from their combination of Babbitt and James Johnson, and the Jazz would seem to have a clear advantage at the 4 spot with Favors. It will be interesting to see how much Utah goes to him to exploit this edge.