Utah Jazz (24-21) vs. New Orleans Hornets (15-30)
Tipoff: Wednesday, 7 p.m.
TV: ROOT Sports
Radio: 1280 AM/97.5 FM
Season series: Tied, 1-1
The Jazz are coming off one of their worst losses in franchise history, a 45-point drubbing at the hands of a Houston Rockets team that, according to the standings, is really no better or worse than the Jazz.
However, depending on who you asked following Wednesday's morning shoot around at EnergySolutions Arena, the Jazz need to either use that loss for fuel against the Hornets, or block it from mind and move on.
"You can't play this game angry," guard Randy Foye said. "You've just got to come out and execute a game plan."
He added: "The game is not played angry. It's played tough, physical and hard."
However, when asked whether the Jazz needed to carry Monday's loss with them, guard Alec Burks had a different response.
"Got to," he said. "You got to remember that. It was on the home court, it just happened. You've got to remember that."
The Hornets are coming off a 111-106 loss at the Lakers, but are playing their best of the season. They have won nine of their last 15 games, including wins over Boston, Philadelphis and, yes, even the Houston Rockets.
The Jazz will be without Gordon Hayward for the second-straight game as the team's top reserve continues to take care of a sprained right shoulder. He suffered the injury in Saturday's 114-110 overtime win over the Indiana Pacers.
Without Hayward in the game, the key matchup for the Jazz could be in the backcourt with New Orleans point guard Greivis Vasquez. Vasquez scored 15 points, tallied 15 assists and grabbed 5 rebounds against the Lakers. At 6-foot-6 he presents a challenge for the Jazz, whose starting guards are 6-foot-3 (Jamaal Tinsley) and 6-foot-4 (Randy Foye).
"Point guard that can handle the ball," Foye said, when asked what makes Vasquez a tough matchup. "Not extremely quick but crafty around the rim. He's a tough guy."
It seems like the perfect place for the 6-8 Hayward to cause a disruption, but the Jazz will have to come up with a different plan.
"I might have to guard him a little bit tonight," Foye said. "Put a bigger body on him. He's good. We understand that he loves going right and that's something we have to take away from him."
Burks may be the most logical choice, but the second-year guard has struggled defensive. He is, however, significantly quicker Vasquez and could create problems there.
Al Jefferson has plenty of detractors when it comes to his defense, but Al Jefferson is not among them.
Oft-criticized for his struggles defending the pick and roll, the Jazz center came to his own, um, defense Wednesday, saying that while the Jazz did struggle in the pick and roll with Jeremy Lin and James Harden he didn't think it was an ongoing issue.
Here's Big Al, uninterrupted:
"I think from the last game, before the last game we've been doing a pretty good job on the pick and rolls, in my opinion. You may have a different opinion. ... Last game was just one of them games that things just went wrong, Three years I've been here we've just never really played that bad, everybody just played bad at the same time. That's one of the games you're just going to hope happens once in ever 10 years, I'll be ready to retire next time it happens again, hopefully. I just think you can't judge that based off the last game, everything went bad last game. I think before that we been defending the pick and roll pretty good."
New Orleans makes one more trip to Utah before the season is over, and only then can we can truly say goodbye to the "Hornets" nickname and start getting acclimated to the idea of the Pelicans.
The Tom Benson-owned franchise unveiled its new nickname and logo last week to mixed reviews. The Jazz had little to say about the nickname and Al Jefferson said all he knows about the brown pelican is that, "It flies."
But the highlight of this particular topic? I must give a hat tip to Jody Genessy of the Deseret News for engaging Louisiana native Paul Millsap and getting this lovely response.
Q: What's your take on the Hornets being renamed the Pelicans?
A: That's the state bird. I mean... state bird.
Q: Do you have a lot of pride in the Pelicans?
A: Yeah, I mean, I'm from Louisiana, so, yeah, I mean, yeah.
Q: Do you like that name for an NBA team?
A: It's the state bird.
— Bill Oram