The Utah Jazz, winners of two straight games, travel to Sacramento to take on the Kings. The Jazz seem to have righted the ship after five of eight games and sit as the third seed in the NBA's Western Conference. The Kings have lost seven of their last ten games and find themselves on the outside looking in if the playoffs started today, sitting in 10th place in the Western Conference. Game time is set for 10:30 EST.
Jazz Getting Fine TunedThe Utah Jazz, after a scorching start, briefly came back to earth with a stretch of five losses in eight games. Utah has reeled off two straight victories to move to 10-5 and regaining first place in the Western Conference's Northwest Division. The Jazz have also welcomed back a key piece as Rudy Gay returned to action in their most recent win, 119-103 over the Raptors in Salt Lake City. Gay scored 20 points and added five rebounds in just 18 minutes of play as he recovers from his second major knee surgery in the past few seasons. He missed Utah's first 14 games while recovering from offseason surgery on his right heel. The veteran forward does not shy away from the work necessary to get on the court.
"It's not easy. It takes a lot of dedication," Gay said. "You got to be a little different and I'm a little different."
Donovan Mitchell also scored 20 points for the Jazz but the talk after the game was all about Gay. Not only was he effective on the offensive end, he was a presence defensively. Gay's length and experience will give Utah another weapon to strengthen their attempts at a Western Conference Championship on the road to the NBA Finals.
"He played within himself," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "Made the game easy because of the decisions that he made. He made shots, but that's a byproduct of making the right play."
Running Out of ChancesAt just 6-9 heading into their Friday night game against Toronto, the first of back to back games this weekend, the Sacramento Kings are playing uninspired basketball. Offensively, they have been a relatively potent team, scoring over 110 points per game. Defensively, they have been far less than potent and have been regularly out-rebounded on a consistent basis. It has been a point of emphasis of their head coach, Luke Walton, and the team did show some life in Wednesday's game. However, despite recording a season-high 20 offensive rebounds, the Kings found themselves on the short end of a 107-97 road loss to the 5-9 Timberwolves.
“We didn’t do anything to impose our will on the game,” Kings coach Luke Walton said. “We did offensive rebound. We rebounded the ball pretty well tonight. Two transition points, that’s just us not being committed to playing how we want to play.”
In the highly competitive Western Conference, having a lack of killer instinct or an inability to stay aggressive on a nightly basis is a recipe for disaster. It was promising that, on this one night, when the Kings were not putting the ball in the basket, they were able to stay aggressive.The rebounding kept Sacramento in the game. The Kings had 13 offensive rebounds in the first half along, with the focus resulting in 16 second-chance points and a close game despite the poor shooting and heavy turnover totals.
“When we went small with our more spacing, offensive group, we struggled to rebound,” Walton said. “When we went big with our rebounding group, we rebounded but we didn’t make shots or take advantage of our stops. It’s a balance that we’ve got to figure out. We've got to be more consistent and be able to play both styles.”
Veteran Tristin Thompson didn't hold back when assessing his team's struggles as they limped home after a poor road trip. Thompson, a veteran of several successful playoff teams, knows his team has to execute better.
“I think at the end of the day, the reality is this road trip should have been a 4-0,” Thompson said, breaking down each of Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Detroit and Minnesota. “Those teams, three out of those four teams really didn’t want to win those games. They’re probably (ticked off) that they even won those games. Tonight was another night, these are the games you have to win. If you’re trying to be in the playoffs or be in the play-in game, these are the wins that you have to capitalize on.”
- The Kings are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games overall.
- The Kings are 2-5 ATS in their last 7 games vs. a team with a winning straight up record.
- The Kings are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 home games vs. a team with a winning road record.
- Over is 5-2 in the Kings last 7 Saturday games.
- Over is 7-3 in the Kings last 10 vs. a team with a winning straight up record.
- Trends courtesy of covers.com
- Over is 5-1 in Jazz last 6 Saturday games.
- Jazz are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 road games vs. a team with a losing home record.
- Jazz are 7-2 ATS in their last 9 games vs. a team with a losing straight up record.
- Trends courtesy of covers.com