Utah Jazz vs. New Orleans Hornets Preview and Pick

Utah Jazz (37-21) +4, 205 at New Orleans Hornets (38-18), 8 pm Eastern Friday, ESPN
by Zman of Predictem.com

Two teams that should exchange nicknames hook up for an important Western Conference battle when the Utah Jazz visit their long-ago stomping grounds for a bout with the New Orleans Hornets in the opener of an NBA/ESPN double-header Friday night.

NBA Sportsbooks list New Orleans as four-point home favorites for Friday’s game, with a total of 205. Also, the Hornets are posted at right around -185 on various Vegas moneylines, with Utah getting +160 as road underdogs.

Utah is a bit of a Jekyll-and-Hyde case this season. Over their last four games, the Jazz have beaten Atlanta and Detroit (Thursday by a score of 103-95), but lost to the Clippers and Timberwolves. Also, while Utah is 25-3 at home this season, they’re just 12-18 on the road. And the Jazz actually have a better mark against teams with winning records this season 18-9 than vs. teams with losing records 19-12.

Adding it all up, and Utah is still in first place in the Northwest Division, 2 games ahead of the second-place Denver Nuggets, and holds down the fourth seed in the convoluted Western Conference standings.

On the other side of this match-up, New Orleans beat Phoenix Thursday 120-103 to break a three-game losing streak. Since embarking on a nine-game winning streak, the Hornets have gone just 6-6. So heading into Friday’s action, New Orleans sits in second place in the Southwest Division, one game back of the first-place San Antonio Spurs, and owns the three spot in the West.

The Jazz took two of three games from New Orleans last season, and have beaten the Hornets badly twice already this season, by scores of 99-71 and 110-88. Both of those games this season were played in Utah, where together the Jazz shot 49% from the field in the two games and held New Orleans to 39% shooting.

So over the course of those most recent five meetings in the series between these two teams, Utah is 4-1 straight up and 3-1-1 against the spread. And the o/u has gone 1-4 in those five games, which have averaged just 186 total points.

This season, the Jazz are 30-27 against the spread, but just 12-18 both straight up and vs. the numbers on the road.

Meanwhile, the Hornets are a profitable 34-21 ATS this season, 19-10 SU and 16-13 vs. the numbers at home.

Statistically speaking, Utah ranks 4th in the league in point differential at +5.6 per game, while New Orleans ranks 6th at +5.1 per game.

The Jazz are shooting 49% from the floor as a team this season, 36% from 3-point range and 76% from the free-throw line.

At the other end of the court, the Hornets are shooting 46% from the field, 39% from long range and 77% from the line.

Also, Utah ranks 5th in the league in rebounding at +2.1 boards per game, New Orleans 9th at +1.5 per game. And both teams are allowing opponents to shoot 46% from the field.

The Sagarin PREDICTOR ratings at USAToday.com ranks the Hornets 4th at 95.3, the Jazz 6th at 95.3. Sagarin’s current NBA home-court advantage figure is 3.3.

The o/u is 31-27 in Utah games this season, which are averaging 205 total points, while the totals are 27-29 in New Orleans games, which are averaging 195 points.

Zman’s Pick: Take the Hornets at -4 as we see them as a strong play vs. the Jazz tonight.