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Open Thread and Contest: Game 37

Regular Season Game 37
Jazz (24-13) at Wizards (20-16)
Verizon Center
1 PM

After two straight road losses, the Wizards come home to face the Jazz at the Verizon Center.  The Jazz started off as the NBA's hottest team at 12-1, but are 12-12 since, including three straight losses.  A lagging defense has been the problem, as the Jazz have given up at least 100 points in six straight losses.  Still, the Jazz are a formidable opponent, and they have a really good frontcourt that the Wizards are going to really struggle to match up with.

Gilbert Arenas has struggled mightly in his last three games, shooting only 29 percent from the field.  Apparently, he's still suffering from the shoulder injury he suffered against the Bucks on December 30.  

Looking a little like a baseball pitcher who had just worked too many long innings, Gilbert Arenas flexed, shook his right arm -- the one that has been responsible for a 30-point scoring average and helped the Washington Wizards charge into contention in the Eastern Conference -- and then grimaced.

"The shoulder is just hurting me a lot the last three games," Arenas said late Saturday night, after making 6 of 20 shots and scoring 17 points in a 93-80 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. "I don't know. When I go to shoot, everything feels like it's coming up short."

Arenas hurt the shoulder in a collision with Ruben Patterson during a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Dec. 30 and said he aggravated it during Friday's loss to the Hornets in Oklahoma City.

The Wizards will need Arenas to have a great game against a below-average Jazz defense.  The Jazz defend point guards pretty well (14.1 opposing PER), but struggle most with shooting guards and power forward.  If the Wizards move Arenas off the ball, he might have a great game.

On the other end, the Wizards are going up against a surprisingly prolific Jazz offense, led by second year point guard Deron Williams and former Duke star Carlos Boozer.  I've hated Boozer ever since he entered the league (growing up in Maryland will do that to you), but I have a lot of respect for Williams, who has emerged after being heavily scrutinized for going ahead of Chris Paul in the 2005 draft.  In addition, even though I hate him, I have to admit that Boozer is going to be handful for the Wizards tonight.  The Jazz average a 23.3 PER at the power forward position, and as we know, Antawn Jamison is not exactly a competent defender.  Combine that with Mehmet Okur's unique skills, which will drive Wizard centers away from the basket, and the Jazz are going to be a handful, even at the phonebooth.

Jazz Blogs: Utah Jazz Blog, Jazz Fanz.

Your lines for this afternoon.

Jazz at Wizards: Wizards by 3.5.
Over/Under on Big 3: 69.5 points.

This is an open game thread, so any rants about that asshole Boozer go here.