The year 2016 is a year we won't soon forget. The Chicago Cubs broke a 108-year World Series curse and Donald J. Trump was just elected as the new President of the United States of America. I know better than to use this as a political platform, but these two major events should remind us of something we already knew thanks to an infamous Kevin Garnett postgame interview - "Anything is possible".
How exactly does that tie into the NBA and the Utah Jazz? Let me explain. Last night the Atlanta Hawks went into Cleveland riding an 11-game losing streak against the Cavaliers. They were able to pull off the upset as eight-point underdogs. The point I am trying to make is that any team, person or hot-favorite can be susceptible to a major letdown. I understand the Western Conference is very top-heavy this year, but the Jazz could just be this year's Donald Trump to Golden State's Hillary Clinton.
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They have a team that offers up a solid interior presence when Derrick Favors is fully healthy. He is complimented well by Boris Diaw, who spent the better part of four seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, winning one NBA Title. He brings invaluable experience and knowledge to a young team eager to take the next step. The backcourt of George Hill and Gordon Hayward offer a dual scoring threat, and the addition of Joe Johnson brings the team perimeter shooting and shutdown defense.
I completely understand that the talent on paper doesn't quite add up to the likes of Golden State, but if anyone out there is looking for a team that could finish in the top half of the WC and win a playoff round, or possibly two - the Jazz are your team. The Jazz are your NBA version of Donald J. Trump. Underdogs in every sense of the word.
With all that said, the Jazz must continue to grow as a team and stay healthy throughout the year for my praise to come to fruition.
Next up for the Jazz is a road game against Charlotte, which will mark their third game on a five-game roadie.
As a reminder, I will release picks throughout the season using Doc's Sports Unit Betting System and will keep track of the results, regularly checking in with observations about what we can learn or have learned up to date.
Utah Jazz @ Charlotte Hornets Betting Storylines
This is game No. 9 for the Utah Jazz as they currently sit in sixth place in the Western Conference. They own a 5-3 record SU and a 4-4 record ATS. They will be in tough against a surprising Hornets' team who sits at 5-1 and in second spot in the East. The Hornets themselves are 4-2 ATS over their first six games.
Both of these teams come into tonight's game on the heels of a Monday night win. For the Jazz, they were able to get by the lowly 76'ers by a score of 109-84. They were led in scoring by Gordon Hayward, who has scored at least 20 points in back-to-back games since returning from the IR with a broken finger. He had plenty of help from his supporting cast as Derrick Favors had 16 points and 14 rebounds and Rodney Hood scored 18. The key to winning this game was the Jazz's three-point shooting. They were able to knock down 11 of 19 attempts and limit the 76ers to 7-of-21 from beyond the arc. The Jazz also set a season high with 11 blocks in the game as Favors and Gobert had three each.
The Hornets are playing some great basketball early on this season, and it all came together on Monday against Indiana. The offense put up 43 first-quarter points en route to a 75-point first half. They won the game by 22, and in all honesty it should have been by a lot more. They were led in scoring by Kemba Walker, who had 24 points and 10 assists. They also capitalized on the Pacers' mistakes by scoring 35 points on 18 turnovers.
This game will be played at a high pace as both teams like to push the ball up and down the court and score a lot of points. For the Jazz to be successful, they will need to limit their turnovers and continue to knock down three-pointers at a good clip. If they fail to do so, as seen in their losses, they will have a hard time containing the Hornets fast-break offense.
The injury report for the Jazz has two key contributors on the list. George Hill, who missed Monday's game with a sprained finger, will be a game-time decision. The bigger issue is Boris Diaw, who is expected to miss one week with a leg contusion.
For the Hornets - Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is listed as day-to-day with a sore lower back, and center Roy Hibbert is still trying to work his way back from a sore right knee. He is listed as questionable for tonight's game.
Utah Jazz @ Charlotte Hornets Odds and Betting Trends
Both teams will be looking to extend their winning streaks, and Las Vegas has tabbed the Hornets as 2-point favorites. The total sits at 194 (-110).
The Jazz are 4-1 ATS in their last five games and 6-3 ATS in their last nine games on the road. The Hornets are 3-10-1 ATS in their last 14 games against Utah, and total has gone "under" the number in six of the last seven matchups between these two teams.
Utah Jazz @ Charlotte Hornets Predictions and Picks
Both of these teams come into this game playing great team basketball over the last week. The Hornets are off to the best start in franchise history, while the Jazz are trying to assert themselves as a factor in the tough Western Conference.
It's always tough on a team to go through an extended road rip with a full team. The Jazz are likely going to be without George Hill and Boris Diaw once again tonight, and I think the Hornets can take advantage of the lack of depth and tire the Jazz out.
The key matchup in tonight's game figures to be Kemba Walker against Shelvin Mack, who will unfortunately draw the tough task of trying to contain the quick UConn alum. Walker has been playing lights out as he leads the team in scoring at 24.3 points per game while also posting 5.5 assists and knocking down threes at a spectacular 48.7 percent clip.
Ultimately I see Charlotte winning this game and covering the small number thanks in large part to having a full and healthy squad at the ready. The Jazz will be fine, but they won't have the resources tonight to stop the Hornets.
Let's get a win tonight with a 3-unit play on the Hornets -2, (-110).
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