After playing 5 of their first 6 games following the All-Star break in Salt Lake City, the Jazz now turn their attention to a crucial 3-game-road-trip, which starts Wednesday night against the Pacers.
Along with winning 15 of their last 17 games, Utah has also been victorious in their last 8 road games. The last time the Jazz lost away from Vivint Smart Home Arena was on January 22nd in Atlanta against the Hawks.
Wednesday will be the second time in 2018 that the Pacers and Jazz meet. Back on January 15th, the Pacers embarrassed the Jazz 109-94 in Salt Lake City, but that was a different Jazz team. Rudy Gobert wasn’t in the lineup, Rodney Hood scored 15 points, he’s no longer here, and the duo of Ricky Rubio and Joe Ingles combined for 2 points to go-along with 1-8 shooting.
Since that fateful day less than two months ago, Utah has pulled a complete-180 on their season, turning into a perennial playoff team, as they’re gunning for their fourth consecutive win.
The Pacers however, are no slouch, having won three straight of their own, and 7-3 in their last 10 games, and sitting at fourth in the Eastern Conference standings with a 37-27 record. Since their defeat of the Jazz in January, Indiana has gone 13-7.
On paper, the two teams are very similar to each other. Both teams have an established scorer, with Donovan Mitchell (19.8 PPG) and Victor Oladipo (24.0 PPG). Both teams have 5 or more players averaging over 10 points per game as well.
Matchup of the night on Wednesday will simply be the Jazz defense vs the Pacers offense. When these two teams met in January, the Pacers shot 53.2% from the field, and put up 109 points. Indiana comes in averaging 106.4 points per game.
However, perhaps the greatest strength for the Jazz is their defense. In their last two victories against the Magic and the Kings, Utah’s stifling defense has held their opponents to under 40% shooting, and have allowed 100 points just twice since the All-Start break.
With Wednesday being just the second game the Jazz have played on the road post-All-Star break, Utah will look to re-establish their swagger away from home. The Jazz also take on Memphis on Friday, and then New Orleans on Sunday afternoon. A win in Indiana against a good team that will most likely be in the playoffs, will no doubt give Quin Snyder’s team confidence in their next two games on the road.
As far as the playoffs situation, Tuesday night was a step forward for the Jazz in their quest towards post-season play, and they didn’t even step on the court. All three teams holding the 7-9 spots in the West, the Nuggets, Thunder and the Clippers all lost, which means Utah sits only a half-game behind L.A. for the 9th seed.
More good news for Jazz fans, Derrick Favors will be playing Wednesday night.