Tonight we have a heavyweight matchup 👀
These are the best teams both in the West as well as in the NBA, and are the current two hottest teams, both having won 9 of their last 10 games.
Utah Jazz ⤵️
- Best record in the NBA and 1st in the West
- 1st in point differential (+11.7)
- 1st in offense
- 2nd best defense
- 2nd best in defending shots (allowing eFG% of 50.6)
- 2nd best in defending without fouling
Phoenix Suns ⤵️
- 2nd best record in the NBA and the West
- 2nd in point differential (+7.6)
- 7th in offense
- 5th best defense
- 4th best in defending shots (allowing eFG% of 52.4)
- 5th in taking care of the ball
Phoenix is also amidst a 6-game win-streak
Phoenix would win 106-95 @ Utah on December 31st.
Granted, this was certainly well before either team ascended to the statuses they have garnered now, it could present a model for how the winner of this game can win.
This game was essentially won at the 3-point line, where Phoenix shot 51.5% (including 5 of 8 in the 4th) and made 17 total. All the while Utah shot a, by their standards, pedestrian 35.3% from deep.
Looking ahead to tonight ⤵️
A defensive effort, or stumbling across a cold shooting performance from deep will likely make winning in this one tough for either team.
This holds true even more-so for the Suns as they rely a lot more upon their mid-range baskets from Chris Paul (42%, 75th percentile) and Devin Booker (39%, 51st percentile).
Over the course of the game, exchanging their two’s on efficiency with Utah’s 3s can be offset because of the volume of which 45.2% of their offense comes from (on 40.2%, 2nd best in the league).
As simple as 3’s outweighing 2’s if Phoenix’s defense isn’t up to the task. Which serves as a great prelude to my next point.
Where will this game be won?
The 3-point line
Utah gets up 3-pointers at the highest clip. They do so in a variety of ways: via setplays in the halfcourt within their offensive system, after offensive rebounds where defenses are nearly as vulnerable as they’ll every be, and especially in transition where defenses are rendered most vulnerable.
Utah has six players shooting three’s at a clip north of the 60th percentile for their respective positions (Ingles – 51%, Conley – 42%, Niang – 41%, O’Neale – 39%, Mitchell – 40%, Bogdanovic – 39%).
They have moments in their games where they string together stops then, in changing ends of the floor, hit a few three’s that suddenly break games open. They’re first in transition offense because of how well they exploit the 3-point line there.
More than any other team (sans the Clippers who are up next in the schedule) the Suns must neutralize the 3-point line defensively. They do a great job of keeping teams from even getting those opportunities up, as teams on average on get up 34.2% of their shots from there vs them. Even more, teams only shoot 35.1% from 3 vs Phoenix which is the 3rd best mark in the league. The Suns also only allow teams to shoot 34.3% above the break which is the 4th best mark, and 38.4% from the corners which is 11th best.
This is a clash of philosophies as well as a clash of strengths specifically at the 3-point line.
The Suns will look to force switches and play versus Gobert in space, while the Jazz will look to up the tempo and play in transition where the Suns have been vulnerable.
Another instance I be looking for is if either coach tweaks or goes off-script with their rotations, as neither will admit the true magnitude of this game but will certainly have it in the back of their minds.
For Phoenix, I’ll be looking to see if Williams uses “small ball” to pull Gobert away from the basket should Ayton not be in the game. I’ll also be looking to see how Saric and Favors matchup with each other.
Both teams are starting a big-time back to back in their respective schedules. The Suns have Utah then they’re at the Clippers tomorrow. Where as the Jazz are on the road vs Phoenix tonight, then host Portland tomorrow.
I’m expecting a big game from both Chris Paul and Devin Booker, as well as Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert.
Alright, the national stage spotlight is set for 9pm CST on ESPN. Let’s see who comes away with this one, which players step up 🏀.
*All stats used come directly from cleaningtheglass and are accurate entering play on 4.7.2021*