The Utah Jazz are in the midst of their worst skid in three years. In a matter of 11 days the Jazz have slipped from tied for third in the Western Conference to the seventh spot. They've also lost control of the Northwest Division during this 0-6 slide.
After a rejuvenating performance against the Spurs, still resulting in a loss, tonight Utah will be without All-Star point guard Deron Williams for the first time all season.
Williams hurt his wrist on Wednesday just before the end of the initial period but played through the pain anyway. Although the Jazz lost, Williams put on a dazzling performance and his best of the season.
After only scoring 10 points in the first two quarters and getting consistently burnt by Spurs' guard Tony Parker, Williams exploded for 29 second-half points by getting into the paint at will despite the obvious pain.
On Thursday, Williams underwent an MRI and the results revealed no structural damage occurred. However, Williams announced earlier this afternoon that he will miss the home game tonight against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
This is a large blow to the Jazz who desperately need an immediate win. Utah's schedule is calming down over the next few weeks with only some division rivals coming to town. But Utah has lost to the Washington Wizards, New Jersey Nets, and Philadelphia 76ers.
Without energy and effort tonight, along with Williams' absence, the Jazz could be staring down their seventh consecutive loss.
What to Look for
Earl Watson will likely get the start while Williams nurses his hyperextended wrist. Watson brings key energy off the bench and will likely run the Jazz' starters right off the court if they don't keep up.
The veteran will push the ball down Minnesota's throat tonight, whether or not Al Jefferson and Co. are in tow.
Part of Utah's struggles all season has been their slow starts, also partially Williams fault, who doesn't push the ball enough in the opening period.
With Watson running the show, Jerry Sloan may be able to get an eye-opening view of who is/isn't carrying their weight or hustling for the first unit.
Also, center Kyrylo Fesenko is sitting tonight with illness for the third consecutive game. Cause for more concern? Maybe.
But rookie Jeremy Evans will be suiting up again tonight. The 6-foot 9-inch forward has been seeing increased minutes lately. And he's been quite the opportunist with Fesenko out.
Coined "The Human Pogo-Stick" by ex-Jazzman and current Utah analyst Matt Harpring for his unbelievable jumping ability, Evans weighs only 195-pounds--possibly the source for his other-wordly leap.
In 17 combined minutes against the Lakers and Spurs, Evans attempted 10 shots, converting on eight of them for 17 total points, including a single free throw.
One of Evans dunk attempts was blocked during the two games. The other sole miss was a footwork miscue against an undersized defender. While that seems incredibly uninteresting, it's the other eight shots that have grabbed some attention.
All of Evans other shot attempts have been flushed dunks. Two of those dunks came during the closing minutes of the third quarter against the Spurs. Evans converted an alley-oop, now known as the "Early-Oop" when thrown by Earl Watson, plus the foul.
C.J. Miles then closed the original 19-point gap even further with a three-pointer and an old fashioned three-point play, slicing the Spurs lead to 11 before Evans received another nice pass and dunked again.
Evans is currently only the 73rd leading dunker in the NBA with 21. But he's also only played in 21 games all season and is averaging less than seven minutes a game.
Evans only has 29-made field goals this year, but he is shooting over 72-percent from the field with 40 shot attempts and only four turnovers.
Watson and Evans connect for the Early-oop almost every time they see minutes together, and the play is both patented and completely unscouted. Look for some highlights tonight against the lowly Timberwolves.
Maybe the Jazz squeeze out a win. Maybe.