The Utah Jazz will be trying to maintain momentum from a stellar 2017-18 season as they head into 2018-19, starting with a road contest against the Sacramento Kings at the Golden 1 Center on Wednesday night. Utah earned the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference and advanced one round in the playoffs. The Kings remain in rebuilding mode and hope to improve on a 27-55 record.
All Jazzed up
The Jazz have won 99 games over the past two seasons–51 in 2016-17 and 48 last year. There is no reason to think they will suddenly slow down, either. Moreover, Utah has won a playoff series in back-to-back seasons, most recently over the fourth-seeded Thunder before succumbing to Houston in five games. Donovan Mitchell, who finished runner-up to Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons in a relatively controversial Rookie of the Year race, was the main reason why the Jazz stayed afloat instead of sinking after Gordon Hayward departed for Boston. He averaged 20.5 points per game to emerge as a present and future star. Power forward Derrick Favors (12.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg) also played a part.
“I was here for the lowest of the lows,” Favors reflected. “I was here when we won 25 games, and it definitely feels a whole lot better to win 50 and be in the playoffs. And hopefully we come into this year and kind of repeat that, and get even further.”
“I told the team I think there’s a lot of room for improvement,” noted head coach Quin Snyder, whose roster is basically a carbon copy of last season’s. “Sometimes we associate continuity with, I don’t want to say complacency, but that you’re a finished product, so to speak, that you have what you want with continuity. That doesn’t necessarily hold true in my mind.”
Much unlike an on-the-rise Utah team, the Kings still find themselves at the other end of the spectrum with 12 straight seasons of missing the playoffs. However, there may be some hope. Sacramento snagged the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft and landed Marvin Bagley III, who should help energize the rebuilding project. Center Willie Cauley-Stein has shined at times but is also prone to some disappearing acts, so you never know what you are going to get from him on any given day. The Kings declined to offer Cauley-Stein an extension prior to Monday’s deadline for fourth-year players, which means he will be a restricted free agent following this season. They are willing to wait and see if the 25-year-old raises his level like he did during the 2017-18 campaign, when he averaged career-best totals of 12.8 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.
— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) October 15, 2018
“They made it pretty clear: dominate both sides of the floor and what you think is going to happen is going to happen,” Cauley-Stein said of team management. “So that’s what I came here to do.”
“Me personally, you want to come in and have a good season, and you’ve got to go through ups and downs to do that,” Bagley explained. “So, it is just a time where I am just trying to learn and eventually as the season goes on it will come to me and everything will start clicking.”
The Sacramento Kings are:
- 13-3 ATS in their last 16 games on at least three days of rest
- 17-8-2 ATS in their last 27 games against Utah
- 16-5 Under in their last 21 overall
The Utah Jazz are:
- 2-5 ATS in their last seven overall
- 2-5 ATS in their last seven games against the Western Conference
- 5-2 Under in their last seven overall
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Utah forward Thabo Sefolosha will miss the first five games of the season due to a suspension for violating the NBA’s anti-drug program. Meanwhile, Sacramento should have the necessary horses in the back-court to keep up with Donovan Mitchell. That stable includes De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield. Iman Shumpert has arrived from Cleveland to add leadership and depth. Eight points should be enough for Sacramento to cover at home.
Prediction: Sacramento Kings
Full-Game Total Pick
Sacramento shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic (knee) will miss the first three weeks of 2018-19 after undergoing surgery in September. Utah finished second last season in the entire NBA in scoring defense behind only San Antonio, while Sacramento was the lowest-scoring team in the league. The under is 5-2 in the Jazz’s last seven overall and 5-2 in their last seven against the Western Conference. It is also 16-5 in the Kings’ last 21 overall, 6-1 in their last seven at home, and 7-0 in their last seven against the Western Conference. Look for this one to stay under the total.