The NBA’s best teams meet Wednesday as the Utah Jazz (38-12) visit the Phoenix Suns (35-14) in a rematch of their New Year’s Eve game. Phoenix won that as an underdog, which it will be again at 2-points per the NBA betting lines.
The Suns’ last win was no fluke and this team matches up well against Utah. They’re the only two teams in the West who are ranked in the top ten in both offense and defense. Still, Phoenix should once again come out victorious and prove they’re a step above Utah.
The term “three-and-D” has become so ubiquitous that it’s partly a meme nowadays. But the Utah Jazz have flourished thanks to constantly winning the battle from three-point land.
Utah hits the most threes while giving up the least. That’s a 6.4 3-pointer differential per game. It’s no wonder Utah has a league-leading 29 wins via double digits. They’re also 20-7 against teams .500 or better.
The Utah Jazz just set the NBA record for threes made in a half (18), passing the 2018 Golden State Warriors (17).
Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) April 4, 2021
But on the road, Utah is less than dominant with a 16-10 record (13-13 against the spread). That’s mainly due to the defense or their opponents playing much better. The Jazz allows teams to shoot better at home and while that doesn’t sound like much, it’s what Utah’s defense is built on.
The Jazz are last in the NBA in forcing turnovers. This team relies on forcing opponents to take bad shots. They’re second in defensive boards for this reason. If their opponent is playing efficiently and making shots, Utah will be forced to try to win the game based solely on their offense.
Suns: The Genius of Simplicity
Phoenix has been nigh-unbeatable lately. This team, along with Utah, has won nine of its last 10 games. But unlike Utah, Phoenix has not lost to a winning team since Feb. 16 against the Brooklyn Nets. That’s inexplicable.
Since that loss, Phoenix’s four losses have come against sub-.500 teams like Charlotte and Indiana and lottery teams like Minnesota and Orlando. The Suns are 18-4 in this span and are consistently 48% or better from the field.
That’s what having a Hall of Famer as Chris Paul does. He’s single-handedly turned around this once-rudderless team and made it both tougher on defense and more efficient on offense.
The Suns dish out the most assists and allow the fewest. They’re fifth in effective field goal percent (EFG%) and allow the fifth-lowest on defense. In short, this team does what it wants while preventing its opponents from doing theirs. Genius can manifest so simplistically.
In this heavyweight western tilt, we have teams who have ascended to the top thanks to being able to consistently do what they want. The Jazz are playing this up like “it’s just another regular-season game”, but they’ll look to match Phoenix’s intensity.
In order to do what each team wants, they will have to “outwill” the other team. Which team wants it more? Utah will look to neutralize Phoenix’s shooters while beating them on the glass. Phoenix will look to disrupt Utah’s ball movement while asserting their own offense.
In the end, this will come down to which team can maintain its rhythm and make fewer mistakes. And I’ll give the edge to Phoenix here. The Suns’ strength is their ability to limit turnovers and create a nice flowing offense.
Utah is not the type of team to disrupt that. They’ve also shown they aren’t as aggressive on defense when on the road. Ultimately, this game will be driven by each team’s offense and Phoenix will be better at that hence why they’re the right sports bet as an underdog.