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NBA: Utah at Washington
It may be the Friday before the Super Bowl, but basketball fans are concentrating on another exciting night in the “Association”.
There are nine games overall on the schedule including an inter-conference matchup between the Utah Jazz and Washington Wizards. This game will be seen nationally on ESPN starting at 8 pm ET.
Utah comes into this game on a six-game winning streak and they have won 10 out of 11 overall. This run has coincided with a bigger commitment to defense, which has caught the eye of coach Jerry Sloan, one of the best defensive players of his era when he played for Chicago in the 60’s and 70’s.
“I think our team is playing well because that’s what happens when you play better defensively,” Sloan said. “It’s a lot of work to play defense.”
One of those good defensive efforts was their 100-89 win over New York Wednesday night. On Monday night against San Antonio, they beat the defending champs, 97-91. That win was extra sweet as San Antonio beat Utah in the Western Conference finals last year on the way to winning the NBA Championship.
The victory also continued to reinforce Utah’s dominance at home as they are 20-3 straight-up and 15-8 ATS. The road has been a different story though, 8-15 straight up and 8-15 ATS.
Now, Utah travels to a Washington (24-20, 27-17 ATS) team that has won eight of their last 11 games even after losing at Toronto on Wednesday. The Wizards’ Caron Butler has missed their last two games with a strained hip flexor, and is a game-time decision tonight.
The Wizards are already playing without All-Star guard Gilbert Arenas, and the fact they have kept their heads above water is a testament to their depth. Reserve big man, Andray Blatche was moved in the starting lineup in Butler’s absence and he responded with 31 points and 15 rebounds in the two contests.
Washington is 15-8 ATS at home and has covered their last five games there. They are also one of just two teams to beat the mighty Boston Celtics twice this year.
NBA Free Pick: The Wizards will be ready for the Jazz, especially if Butler returns. Utah must turn up their road play a few notches to win this game.
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