To combat the physical stature of the Jazz, Williams needs to maintain his aggressiveness on the court.
Words by Joshua M. Hicks
Coming off a tough overtime loss to the Thunder, the Bulls continue their West Coast trip with a visit to Salt Lake City to play former Bull Lauri Markkanen and the Utah Jazz. With Markkanen bringing in career highs in points (22), field goal (52 percent) and 3-point percentage (37 percent) so far this season, the Bulls will have their hands full in handling the versatility of the Jazz’s big men rotation.
Sitting eighth in the Western Conference standings and recording a 2-7 record in their last nine games, the new Markkanen-led Jazz have a versatile group of players that can kill you not only within the perimeter play, but in the paint as well. The Jazz currently are top 10 in offense with 117 points a game (fourth) and 27 assists a game (seventh), while also having a height advantage over the Bulls with at least five big men listed at 6’8 or above.
With the Bulls mainly playing Andre Drummond and Nikola Vucevic, whom both are 6’10, there could be an opportunity for the Bulls to possibly use a lineup where both big men are present on the court at the same time to help balance the Jazz’s big man attack, right?
Head coach Billy Donovan doesn’t necessarily see it happen, but is still leaving the idea open on the table. Not just in this game, but future games as well.
“It can happen,” Donovan told The Bigs. “There may be different opportunities based on the different teams. We haven’t done a lot of that this season.”
That’s the least of the team’s worries though. Guard Alex Caruso’s status for Monday’s game is uncertain due to a sprained ankle injury that limited him to non-contact participation in Sunday’s practice. Donovan didn’t scratch Caruso from the lineup, but the uncertainty combined with the unlikeliness of Donovan pulling the trigger on an all-big lineup, makes the aggressive and physical play that he brings and the usage of him in small ball lineups that much more important for other role players to step up.
(Insert Patrick Williams)
To combat the physical stature of the Jazz, the Bulls will need to continue relying on their X-factor in Williams to give themselves a chance to put themselves back on the right track in the winning column.
Williams needs to maintain his aggressiveness on the court. He has been shooting 50 percent from the 3-point line this month and making timely defensive stops that help lead the team’s transition game. Now he will add to Monday’s list guarding his former teammate from his rookie year, but he is ready for the challenge.
“I played with Markkanen my rookie year and we built a relationship so it’ll be fun,” Williams said. “It’s going to be a good battle.”
Though the individual battle can be won, the team battle is what is needed to win the game. Williams understands that, emphasizing all the confidence that his teammates can get the job done.
“That’s just part of the job,” Williams said when asked about bringing the versatility to combat the Jazz’s big man attack. “I think we have a lot of guys at the 3 or 4 positions that are versatile. Between me, Javonte [Green], AC [Alex Caruso], DJ [Derrick Jones Jr.], guys that just play multiple positions and guard different heights and sizes I just think that comes with it.”
“We were coming into the season priding ourselves on being versatile offensively and defensively and we have the team to do it so I think we’ll match up with them. It’s just a matter of rebounding and being able to push the ball. When we do that, we’re really good.”