Utah Jazz: Perfect time to face depleted Houston Rockets

Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) /

This Utah Jazz team has an ideal opportunity to spark a new winning streak.

At 8 p.m. MT Friday, the Utah Jazz (27-9) will finally return to the court while still boasting the league’s best record following nine days off due to the All-Star break. They’ll be hosting the severely struggling Houston Rockets (11-24), who are now in the midst of a 14-game losing skid after falling at the Sacramento Kings (15-22) on Thursday night, 125-105.

Obviously, the team in Salt Lake City should now enjoy fresher legs as it tries to begin the second half of its 72-game regular season on a better note than its tail end to the first half. Remember, Utah dropped three of its last four games and four of the last seven.

Ideally, the guys will return to the winning ways from their 20-1 stretch between early January and the middle of February.

Fortunately for the Jazz, while the players must be sure to guard against overconfidence, they are set to take on a Rockets squad that looks to be without a host of key players.

Yes, in light of PJ Tucker’s unwillingness to lace ’em up there anymore, compounding the franchise’s long line of injuries at the moment, Tim MacMahon of ESPN noted via a tweet on Thursday night that Houston may have only the NBA-minimum eight players on hand against Utah.

Plus, as of a Friday announcement, go ahead and add the Rockets’ top weapon, Victor Oladipo, to the no-go list; according to Ben Anderson of KSL Sports, the two-time All-Star guard has decided to rest his rehabbing knee. So there will be no anticipated battle between Oladipo and the Jazz’s own two-time All-Star guard, Donovan Mitchell.

Fitting another piece into the Utah Jazz puzzle

While attempting to guide his bunch to a positive start in its remaining slate, Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder will be eyeing ways to mix in another talent. That’s because Snyder and the gang welcomed Ersan Ilyasova to practice on Thursday after the 6-foot-9, 235-pound seasoned power forward from Turkey officially signed; he’s sat out all season without an NBA home.

Speaking to the media after practice, Snyder implied that the 33-year-old Ilyasova, who offers yet another 3-point trigger and has averaged 10.3 points to along with 5.7 rebounds per game across 12 seasons in the league, might be ready to hoop as soon as Friday’s matchup, potentially without the Jazz skipping the beat:

“Our group wouldn’t have looked at someone you couldn’t plug and play. I think the one thing we’ve been really conscious of is the chemistry of the team…I think he’s anxious to contribute in any way that he can.”

On the other hand, Snyder then hinted that there’s a chance Ilyasova’s debut won’t come quite so soon:

“We don’t expect him to show up and be ready to go right away. That’s not to say that he won’t be in many senses, but there’s an adjustment period.”

Nevertheless, per Sarah Todd of Deseret News, Ilyasova suggested he’s ready to fulfill a role for a title contender:

“My first practice, I see it’s a great group of guys. The communication is there, and they trust each other…When you see the way they play — share the ball, move the ball, everybody kind of backs each other — I think this is what it takes to win a championship…It’s all about the chemistry, and I feel really positive.”

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Finally, another positive potentially working in the Utah Jazz’s favor on Friday night is a slight bump in the Vivint Arena attendance limit to 5,600 fans.