Open thread: Regular season game 45


The essentials:
Jazz (28-18) at Wizards (24-20)
8 p.m.
Verizon Center
ESPN

Last year:
January 15: Wizards 114, Jazz 111.
March 26: Jazz 103, Wizards 97.

Notable Jazz numbers this season
8th in expected winning percentage (.661).
8th in pace factor (92.8 possessions per game).
3rd in offensive efficiency/offensive rating (113.1)
18th in defensive efficiency/defensive rating (107.8).

Key links (drop any others in the comments)
Jazz Notes
My Utah Jazz
Basketball John
Wizards Insider: The latest on the injuries.

Starting lineups:
Jazz
PG: Deron Williams
SG: Ronnie Brewer
SF: Andrei Kirilenko
PF: Carlos Boozer
C: Mehmet Okur

Wizards
PG: Antonio Daniels
SG: DeShawn Stevenson
SF: Caron Butler/Andray Blatche
PF: Antawn Jamison
C: Brendan Haywood

Tonight's lines:
Jazz at Wizards: Jazz by 5.
Over/Under on total scoring: 201 points.

ESPN!

Getting healthy, part II: First, because it's more important than anything, here's an update from Wizards Insider (linked above) about Caron's status.

"Caron Butler attended shootaround this morning but only did light shooting and his status for tonight's game is undecided. I spoke with him last night and he said the hip was felling a little better but it was still tight and I could tell that he was concerned that it could be a lingering issue if he pushes it. Also, the guy had a nasty stomach virus for a few days and had to get an IV because he couldn't keep any food or water down. He's still feeling pretty wobbly."

Yesterday, Mike Jones (who!) wrote that Butler wouldn't play tonight, and while things may have changed a bit, it looks like we probably won't see him out there tonight.  To me, this is fine, so long as it means he will play Sunday.  Utah is playing spectacular ball right now, and the Lakers just got Pau Gasol, so if we have any chance of winning one of these two games, we need Butler.  The East is too tight to give away games, so while it's okay for Butler to sit tonight, we definitely should be sure he plays Sunday.

That didn't exactly make sense.  Basically, Butler needs to return healthy, but he also needs to play for us to win, which is the bottom line.

Speaking of Gasol...: I don't want to waste your time with Gasol-to-Lakers thoughts, so this'll be quick.

The Lakers officially kick ass.

That's all.  I could bore you with the details, but they'll all lead to the same conclusion.  For our purposes, the best part about this trade is Kwame playing in Memphis and Juan Carlos Navarro not being able to play with his buddy after all.  Poetic justice, thy name is the NBA.

Where high scores happen: Face it, with or without Butler, we're not stopping the Jazz offensively tonight.  AD is banged up, so I don't see him doing a good job defending Deron Williams.  Antawn Jamison has improved his defense tremendously, but he always struggles with Mehmet Okur.  Those two and Carlos Boozer are their three key offensive guys, and they each pose their own set of problems.  

Looking at the numbers, obviously it's not surprising to see the Jazz way up there in offense.  What's more surprising, however, is that they're playing at the eighth-fastest pace in the league.  Last year, they were 15th in pace factor, and I could have sworn they were lower than that.  

In thinking about the difference, my guess was the insertion of youngsters Ronnie Brewer and C.J. Miles in the regular rotation.  Really, though, it's probably a more general thing, because it definitely seems Deron Williams is looking to push the ball more.  Also, the fact that their defense remains subpar probably has something to do with it.

Oh joy.  Get ready for smallball: I can probably guarantee this, honestly.  

With Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur, the Jazz have a very unconventional frontcourt.  Boozer is the inside guy, Okur is the soft outside marksman.  That dynamic is key to their success -- when Okur was down in December, the Jazz struggled, and when he returned this month, they promptly retook the Northwest Division lead.  They're a really tough matchup offensively for anyone.

The question here is, who does Brendan Haywood guard?  Normally, Jamison guards Okur and Haywood guards Boozer, but Boozer's too quick laterally for Brendan, particularly off the ball.  I've always felt Boozer's genius is actually when he doesn't have the ball instead of when he does have it.  If so, it's a tough job for Haywood, who is constantly asked to defend the paint.  

Normally, Eddie Jordan deals with this problem by going small.  Well, normally, before this year, Jordan dealt with any problem by going small.  Now that there's a reason to do so, I'm almost positive it will happen, and it will hurt us defensively.

Almost forgot: Bullets Forever made our own big trade today, acquiring truthaboutit in return for Vanilla Gorilla and sierradave (who were promptly bought out and brought back after a desperation plea on their parts).  I'm half-kidding, but in all seriousness, truthaboutit is now going to post every other one of his live-blogs on Bullets Forever instead of his own site, which gives those who watched games a more prompt postgame thread and those who didn't watch a way to follow the action. He'll post his first one here tonight and go every other game thereafter.  I'm really excited about this development, and I hope you guys are as well.

Keys to the game: Drive.  Utah surrenders the most free throws per shot attempt, mostly because, with Okur and Boozer, they have two guys that aren't shot blockers, but masquerade as ones anyway.  This will be tough without Butler in the game, which makes Daniels a key.  If he's in the game and forcing Deron Williams to play defense, we have a chance at succeeding.  If he's simply content with passing off and allowing Jamison and DeShawn Stevenson to fire away, we're in trouble.  Daniels needs to be aggressive tonight for us to have any chance.

This is an open game thread, so reminisce about this here.

GO WIZARDS!

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