Jazz Bench Starters Against Spurs; Is The Team Tanking?
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz won’t look much like the Utah Jazz when they face the San Antonio Spurs Friday morning. On Thursday, the team announced that four of five regular starters will be sitting out against San Antonio. That’s in addition to forward Bojan Bogdanovic who is out for the season after undergoing wrist surgery in May.
Mike Conley (right knee soreness), Donovan Mitchell (left peroneal strain), Royce O’Neale (right calf soreness), and Rudy Gobert (rest) would all miss the game. The lone remaining starter, Joe Ingles is experiencing right foot soreness but is available to play.
The Jazz reopened the NBA last Thursday against the New Orleans Pelicans, and have played every other day over the past week. The team will face the Denver Nuggets Saturday on the second day of back to back games.
Why Are The Jazz Resting So Many Player?
While the Jazz listed injuries for most of the five starters, it likely each of those players would find themselves playing in a more important scenario. With a heavy workload over the last eight days and the playoffs fast approaching, the Jazz are looking to rest their most important players ahead of the postseason.
The Jazz haven’t held a public practice in Orlando since seeding games began on July 30. Furthermore, without Bogdanovic, the Jazz starters have been playing longer minutes to adjust to the gameplan without the sharpshooting forward.
Additionally, the Jazz don’t need to be fighting for home-court advantage over the final four seeding games. With the remainder of the season being held in Orlando, the Jazz won’t have their traditional advantages playing in front of a home crowd, and in Utah’s elevated altitude. Thus, seeking out the best first-round opponent is a better strategy than simply pushing the highest playoff seed available.
The Jazz currently sit in the West’s fourth-seed and would face the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round. The Jazz were engulfed by the Thunder in a 110-96 loss last Saturday. Meanwhile, the Houston Rockets have an even record with Thunder, but lost the season series, giving Oklahoma City the tie-breaking advantage. The Jazz have been eliminated from the playoffs in back to back postseason series.
The Jazz can attempt to control their playoff destiny by losing enough games to fall to the sixth seed and a first-round date with the Nuggets.
Without the usual roster, the Jazz will likely start Emmanuel Mudiay, Jordan Clarkson, Ingles, Georges Niang, and Tony Bradley. The Jazz second unit has struggled during the season’s resumption in Orlando, and could use the added minutes together before the playoffs.
The Spurs were off to a surprising start in Orlando, winning their first two games against the Sacramento Kings and Memphis Grizzlies.
However, San Antonio has now suffered back to back close losses against the Philadelphia 76ers and the Nuggets. The Spurs are playing without forward LaMarcus Aldridge in Orlando, but have been buoyed by former All-Star DeMar DeRozan and guard Derrick White. Both players are averaging better than 20 points per game for the Spurs in the NBA bubble.
The Spurs own the 11th best record in the West, and sit two games back of the eighth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies. San Antonio can force a play-in game for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference by finishing with the ninth-best record in the West, while sitting within four games of the eighth seed.
The Jazz and Spurs tip off at 11 am MT and will be broadcast on AT&T SportsNet.