Game thread: Utah Jazz face Chicago Bulls in the Windy City

The Utah Jazz hit the hardwood for the first time this decade against the middling Chicago Bulls.

After a three day absence, Utah Jazz basketball is finally back! The Jazz will get their first look at the revamped Chicago Bulls this season.

Since these teams last met in March of 2019, both franchises have added talent in an attempt to play longer into the spring. The Bulls signed Thaddeus Young and pulled off a sign and trade for older point guard Tomas Satoransky before coming into this season, and anticipated some growth from their young core to improve on their measly 22 win season.

I pinned the Bulls as a bubble playoff team before the season started, and they’ve been precisely that. Their offense is the second worst in the league, but their defense is top 10 and actually better than Utah’s as of today. That balances out to land the Bulls right in the middle of the pack, and two games out of the Eastern Conference’s last playoff seed.

The clock is ticking on their front office and coaching staff to get the team back to the playoffs. It has already been two and a half years since they traded Jimmy Butler for a package of young players and a lottery pick.

The clock is also ticking for the Utah Jazz to advance past the second round of the playoffs, where they’ve only been once in the past twenty years. They’ve sacrificed some of their defensive grit for three point shooting in an attempt to modernize their attack.

It’s worked out as they are number one in the league in three point shooting percentage, but they only attempt the 20th most threes in the association.

The shot selection combined with their lack of assists and abundance of turnovers has only made for an 18th ranked offense. Thankfully Utah has not one but two 20+ point per game scorers to rely on anytime for a bucket.

Last season the Jazz won both games in the season series, and the season before the series was split even with one win apiece.

The most recent time the Bulls beat the Jazz was in December of 2017, over two years ago. The victory came in the final seconds and was sealed off a missed Donovan Mitchell three that would have forced overtime had it gone in.

Game Data

Broadcast Info

Tip-off: 6:00 PM on December 25 from United Center in Chicago, IL

TV: AT&T SportsNet

Radio: The Zone Sports Network (97.5 FM and 1280 AM Salt Lake City)

Projected Starting Lineups

Utah Jazz                    position     Chicago Bulls

Rudy Gobert                    C           Wendell Carter

Royce O’Neale                PF          Lauri Markkanen

Bojan Bogdanovic          SF          Zach LaVine

Joe Ingles                          SG          Kris Dunn

Donovan Mitchell           PG          Tomas Satoransky

Injuries

The Jazz continue to miss the presence of Mike Conley. Instead of travelling with the team Conley will be staying at home to continually rehab his left hamstring. This indicates to me that a return is not close if he isn’t travelling with the team.

The silver lining of Conley’s absence has been the play of Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles sharing the point guard duties.When he is able to return to the court he will be able to help stabilize the second unit and give the Jazz another scoring threat to aide Mitchell and Bogdanovic.

As for the Bulls, they have several players that are on the mend and close to a return from injury. Zach LaVine (shoulder), Tomas Satoransky (ankle), Wendell Carter (abdomen), Ryan Arcidiacono (elbow), and Cristian Felicio (illness) are all listed as probable to play tonight.

Chandler Hutchinson (shoulder) is listed as questionable, and Otto Porter is still out with a foot injury he sustained in November.

 

Prediction 

Given that the Jazz are on a tear in their last 10 games and that the Bulls are wildly inconsistent, I’d be disappointed if Utah can’t pull off a victory tonight. The Jazz should look to make the most of this stretch of games in early January and show how dangerous they are, even without Mike Conley.

Chicago won’t be quite the pushover Detroit was Monday night, as evidenced by their top-ranked defense and shorter injury report than the Pistons. This will also be in front of the Bulls’ home crowd, which could cause trouble to the Jazz who are 8-9 on the road this season.

Last time these two teams met the Jazz won by over 30 points, and tonight Utah is listed as 3.5 point favorites by the Action Network. I’m feeling that they will outdo those odds and win by the count of nine. The score will be 105 to 114.

Next: New year will prove to be important for Utah Jazz

Discussion

As always the comment section will be up and running below, and you can catch some live game discussion on the hashtag #UTAatCHI. Go Jazz!