The Utah Jazz (28-22) are preparing to host the Chicago Bulls (29-20) in an exciting contest, pitting two of the more well-disciplined and evenly matched squads in the entire league against one another.
With the postseason rapidly approaching, each and every game is important, especially for the Jazz, a team narrowly in the playoff picture and barely clinging to the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference.
The Bulls would love a win as well, as they hope to close the gap between themselves (currently the No. 4 seed in the East) and the Miami Heat (32-14, No. 1 seed.)
Let’s take a closer look at where you can watch this nationally televised contest, highlight some players and matchups to watch out for, make a prediction on the final score and much more in our Friday night NBA preview.
Start Time: Friday, Feb. 8 at 10:30 p.m. ET
Location: EnergySolutions Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah
TV Info: ESPN
Live Stream: NBA League Pass (Paid subscription required)
Injury Report (via CBS Sports)
SG Marco Belinelli, Questionable, Ankle
PG Kirk Hinrich, Questionable, Elbow
PG Derrick Rose, Out, Knee
SG Gordon Hayward, Questionable, Shoulder
PG Earl Watson, Questionable, Leg
PG Mo Willams, Out, Thumb
Key Storyline: Home Advantage
Utah has a major advantage playing in front of the home crowd in Salt Lake City. The team simply dominates here, going 19-5 so far during the 2012-13 campaign.
Compare that with its 9-17 road record, and it’s clear that Jazz need to continue cleaning up at home if they want to make a playoff run.
Chicago is fortunate that its six-game road trip will be coming to a merciful end this weekend, but not before this brutal showdown with the Jazz.
The Bulls are 14-9 on the road this year but lost three of their last four and have their work cut out for them on Friday night.
Key Matchup: Frontcourt
With so many productive guards banged up (check the injury report listed earlier), it’s obvious that this game is going to be decided in the paint.
Fans will get to see Chicago’s All-Star Joakim Noah, plus veteran Carlos Boozer and stud backup Taj Gibson, go up against Utah’s two-headed monster of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, plus emerging second-year stud Enes Kanter and the dangerous backup Derrick Favors.
It’s a star-studded low-post matchup, but this situation actually might be a bit unfamiliar for these players. Considering both teams have the size, strength and skill to boss around most opponents down low—but not one another—its going to be an unexpectedly vicious battle for the participants.
Whichever team controls the boards and wins the edge in the paint will likely come out victorious.
Predicted Starting Lineup and Key Reserves
PG Nate Robinson
SG Richard Hamilton
SF Luol Deng
PF Carlos Boozer
C Joakim Noah
Bulls Key Reserves
PF Taj Gibson
SF Jimmy Butler
PG Jamaal Tinsley
SG Randy Foye
SF Marvin Williams
PF Paul Millsap
C Al Jefferson
Jazz Key Reserves
PF Derrick Favors
C Enes Kanter
SG Alec Burks
It’s never wise to pick against the Jazz when they are playing at home, and we’re not about to buck the trend.
Utah is a skilled, up-and-coming squad that has the personnel to match up great with Chicago, even if the Bulls do play some of the best defense in the entire NBA.
Which team will win this contest?
Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau prides himself on getting his team to completely smother the opposition and force them to take long two-point shots, but the Jazz will constantly dump the ball into the paint and use brute strength to get good looks.
There are not many teams in the Association that can bully around the Bulls, but Utah is one of those, and playing at home should give the Jazz the edge they need to pull out this W.