On New Year’s Eve, the Miami Heat and Utah Jazz will each play for the second straight night in an exciting NBA matchup. Miami was on the road in Denver on Friday night, while the Jazz were out in Sacramento before heading home for Saturday’s game.
With both teams on the second leg of a back-to-back, the team that is healthier and can dig deep to find that extra spark will have the best chance to win this contest, which the Jazz are favored in by 3.5 points.
Miami Heat Overview
On Friday night, the Miami Heat held a lead going into the fourth quarter against the Denver Nuggets, but they were outscored by 10 points in the final quarter to lose that contest. Miami allowed Denver to shoot 60% from three-point range in that game to cost themselves the game. Against a Utah Jazz team that loves to shoot the three, the Heat will need to be better about guarding the perimeter to avoid a second loss in as many days.
Three-point defense aside, the Heat did some very good things against the Nuggets that they will look to replicate on Saturday night. Most notably, the Heat got 44 bench points against Denver, with Max Strus leading their second unit with 19 points. Against a Utah team that can score in large numbers with both its starters and its bench unit, Miami will need its secondary players to show up once again.
As far as injuries are concerned, the Heat have a few players who will not suit up for this New Year’s Eve contest. Victor Oladipo is listed as out, along with Caleb Martin, Dewayne Dedmon, and Omer Yurtseven. The question for the Heat will be whether some of the bigger veteran names on their roster will join those players in sitting out after playing the night before, which is often a possibility.
Utah Jazz Overview
The Utah Jazz suffered a heartbreaking loss on Friday night, dropping a one-point game to the Sacramento Kings. In a back-and-forth game, Utah held a two-point lead in the final minute before allowing a Kevin Huerter three that gave Sacramento the win. Utah returns home for this game, though, where they are an impressive 12-5 on the season, a number they will look to improve upon tonight.
For Utah, the high level of play of Lauri Markkanen has continued to keep them competitive in games they may not have otherwise had a chance to win. Markkanen had 36 points to lead all scorers against the Kings, single-handedly keeping Utah alive in that contest at times. His ability to score both from the perimeter and the paint could be a problem for a Heat team that lacks a defender with both the length and the agility to match up with him.
Perhaps the biggest positive for the Jazz going into the new year is the fact that they do not have any names on their injury report right now. They were dealing with injuries to Collin Sexton and Mike Conley earlier in the year, but the restoration of their guard depth has made them a really tough team to beat. They may decide to sit some players close to game time due to the back-to-back, but there are no true injury cases to worry about here.
Being on the second leg of a back-to-back is never easy in the NBA, but the Utah Jazz have the advantage coming into this one. Being at home on the second night of the back-to-back and having a younger team than the Heat should combine to mean fresher legs for Utah.