Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE
The Wizards end their long West Coast swing with a game against the Utah Jazz. Can they end the trip on a high note?
The Washington Wizards' long road trip is finally over! Well, at least it will be after this one final game against the Utah Jazz. Let's meet them and quickly run through some of the game's storylines.
Where and When? Tip off is at 9 p.m. in Salt Lake City.
Are They Good? Yeah, they're pretty average. The team's record is 22-19. Their expected record based on point differential is 21-20. They're 13-4 at home and 9-15 on the road. They have several good players, but no stars. It all adds up to a very average team.
Who's out? Cartier Martin won't play for the Wizards. The Jazz are completely healthy
Have they played the Wizards this season? Yes. They defeated Washington, 83-76, at the end of a long road trip in November. The loss dropped the Wizards to 0-8.
Why Should I Care? Because a good performance would put a bow on a surprisingly decent road trip.
What Are They Good At? The Jazz still have one of the league's toughest frontcourts. Starters Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are both having good years, and Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter are better than almost any reserves you'll see around the league. Utah is a really good offensive rebounding team and they draw a lot of fouls thanks to their size.
What Are They Bad At? This is not a very good defensive team. Utah is 25th in the league in free throws allowed per shot attempt and a surprising 21st in defensive rebound percentage. They don't guard the pick and roll very well, which causes them to lose position when rebounding.
Can the Wizards end the Salt Lake curse? Here is the margin of defeat for the Wizards when they've traveled to Salt Lake City in the past few years: 14, -7 (they won in 2011), 23, 15, 42. Save for the one nice game late in John Wall's rookie season, the Wizards haven't experienced a lot of success here. Normally, it's because they come to Energy Solutions Arena at the end of a long West Coast trip. So, just like tonight.
The Jazz have to make a trade, right? The Jazz are facing the exact same dilemma they faced last season. At 22-19, they're within striking distance of a playoff spot, and that's mostly because of the work of Millsap and Jefferson. But long term, they don't compliment each other especially well defensively and they block two of the team's three most promising young prospects (with Gordon Hayward being the other). At some point, Favors needs to start, but everyone in the league knows that, so the offers for Jefferson and Millsap haven't been there. So, is this the year they finally trade Millsap or Jefferson? If not, they'll both be free agents and the Jazz will risk losing them for nothing.