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3 Things to Look for in Tonight’s Season Opener vs. Kings

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At long last, the wait is over and the NBA regular season is finally underway. For the Utah Jazz, this season serves as a chance to follow up on their Cinderella run from a year ago and show the league what they really do from start to finish. Donovan Mitchell became the star Salt Lake City needed late in the season, and the Jazz weren’t on anybody’s map for the majority of the first half of the schedule either.

If the way things went last year were any indication of this season, how the Jazz started is far from how they finished. That does not mean that these first several games are unimportant, but put much more emphasis on being consistent. They’ve been able to do that on paper with their roster, but acting on it will take a workload best solved if shared.

That being said, here are three things to look for in the first game of the season against the Sacramento Kings.

Photo Courtesy of USA TODAY

Making their road game just as dangerous

While the Jazz got to the point where they played a winner-take-all scenario with Portland for the third seed, not everything on their record was without blemish. One of the biggest things that stand out is that they had a losing record away from Salt Lake City, going 20-21 on the road. The Jazz also went 7-9 against teams in their division. The only team that made the playoffs in the Western Conference that had a worse division record happened to be the Oklahoma City Thunder, who held a 5-11 record against divisional opponents.

While Sacramento is not in their division, it is a road game that they can’t afford to lose unless they have a real excuse like a costly injury or something like that. Opening up against the Kings, their squad is at full health and shouldn’t have a problem going full steam ahead.

Another thing to take into account with this point is how good the rest of their division actually is. Denver arguably is going to be a better team than they were a year ago, Oklahoma City made the right moves to stay dangerous as a top team in the conference, and Portland isn’t going away anytime soon even though they ended last year as a major disappointment. The only team you can really knock off with proof and room for concern is Minnesota.

While the division boasts some of the strongest teams in the NBA, winning on the road was not a strength of any of them. In fact, only two teams had winning records on the road (Oklahoma City and Portland), and they were both 21-20. This would be a crucial step for the Jazz if they hope to stand out in the Western Conference and thrive at the top.

Photo Courtesy of GiveMeSport

Sacramento will get a chance to see what’s in the bag

Not a lot of justification was really needed for the Sacramento Kings to pick Marvin Bagley III out of Duke in this summer’s NBA Draft. A promising prospect out of Duke, Bagley III is the kind of player that can help Sacramento turn their franchise around quickly — if things go right. De’Aaron Fox still has room to grow in his second year, but the Kings could really have something special if that tandem can click.

While Bagley’s performance in one game isn’t indicative of how his entire career will end up, the fan base would definitely get all on board if they can see some strong promise. It’s easy to over hype players selected high in the draft, but that is where Kings fans need to exercise cautious optimism. Be happy with what you’ve got, but don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

Should Bagley come out and play well against a team like Utah, chances are that the organization made the right selection. Especially given the fact that the Jazz are known for a solid defensive presence, particularly from center Rudy Gobert.

Photo Courtesy of Salt Lake Tribune

Can Joe Ingles and Jae Crowder can be difference makers?

The first round clash in last season’s playoffs with Oklahoma City showed us some things we aren’t used to seeing from the Jazz. For starters, Joe Ingles went all in on putting pressure on Paul George in the clutch, and the rest of the team didn’t hesitate to puff their chest out as needed. Besides Ingles, another spark in that series was Jae Crowder — especially in Game 4 where he was ejected following a fight on the floor.

Making sure that this team has a constant physical edge to them is crucial to knowing where they’ll land in the standings and playoff picture. This is another thing that we didn’t get to see from them from a full season, as Crowder was added mid-year in a trade with Cleveland. Knowing this, the hope that the Jazz can be physical and play as one unit will be something fans should cling to for 82 games and beyond.

The other way that Crowder and Ingles can be difference makers is on the score sheet. There is yet to be an emergent number two scorer alongside Donovan Mitchell. This is a problem that the Utah Jazz need to solve sooner than later.

It’s what cost them in the second round against Houston, and could be their Achilles’ heel this season as well if they don’t have an alternative.

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About Keith Rivas

Keith is based In Salt Lake City and covers the Jazz for TLSM. Follow him on Twitter @mrkeithrivas for all things Utah Jazz.

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