The key match-ups: Adelaide 36ers v Utah Jazz

Feb 11, 2018; Portland, OR, USA; Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles (2) shots over Portland Trail Blazers in the second half at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

The Adelaide 36ers are taking on the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City this Saturday, in their only game on the NBL’s tour of the USA. The Jazz recently dismantled the Perth Wildcats on Sunday, and continued their great play against Toronto on Wednesday. The 36ers will be facing a confident Jazz team at Vivint Smart Home Arena.

The 2017/18 NBL Grand Finalists’ up-tempo style of play and quick fire offence suits facing an NBA opponent like the Jazz. With their constant running, the 36ers will certainly make the Jazz work hard. Adelaide had the most productive offence in the NBL last season, averaging nearly 95 points per game, and their potency will be put the test against the hard-nosed Utah Jazz.

On defence they were nowhere near as formidable, and they will certainly need to step their game up on Saturday. Head coach Joey Wright has stated this is an area he was looking to remedy in the offseason. The Jazz have some very dangerous scorers on their roster, so the new and improved Adelaide defence will need to be on full display.

The 36ers have high expectations for themselves going into the new NBL season, and will be eager to make a statement against the Jazz. Here are five key match-ups to watch this Saturday.

Rubio vs. DeLeon

34-year-old Adris DeLeon brings an abundance of experience to the role of floor general for the 36ers. The Dominican import has played in leagues all around the world. His knowledge of the game and ability to read the court will be hugely important for Adelaide.

DeLeon’s style of play really suits coach Wright’s system. He is an aggressive player who is constantly probing for openings. He is not a classic pass-first point guard. Rather, his game flows from his ability to pressure the defence with his scoring.

DeLeon has a big bag of tricks in his arsenal. He hovers around the court on the balls of his feet, and almost seems to bob and weave his way around the court like a skilled boxer. His use of hesitation and crossover dribble moves keeps his defenders on the back foot, a is constant threat to an off-balance opponent. DeLeon’s dynamic offensive style will certainly force Ricky Rubio to guard him in the backcourt. Rubio can sometimes be flatfooted on defence, a trait the Dominican is sure to exploit.

Although DeLeon is a skilled scorer, he does have a problem with turnovers. During his past tenures in the NBL (with the Gold Coast Blaze in 2011/12 and Wollongong Hawks 2012/13) he nearly averaged as many turnovers as assists. Against a skilled guard like Rubio, whose quick hands often lead to steals, this could be an issue for Adelaide.

Utah’s domination of Perth stemmed from their ability to force turnovers and convert them into points. DeLeon’s turnovers often stem from forcing things a bit too much. He will need to remain patient, and the let the Adelaide system work with him.

Mitchell vs. Sobey

Nathan Sobey’s game is a combination of hustle, skill and athleticism. He is one of the fiercest competitors in the NBL, and is a relentless presence when he steps over the white lines. The 2017 NBL Most Improved Player will make himself a handful for Donovan Mitchell, and should force the incredibly gifted Utah guard to play both ends of the court.

Sobey’s speed is perhaps his biggest strength. His acceleration and ability to play at in top gear gear is the springboard for the rest of his game. He drives to the basket with a unique combination of aggression and deftness. With a head of steam he is a difficult man to stop.

Adelaide likes to generate their points in transition, but Sobey is also gifted in isolation. With an assortment of dribble moves at his disposal, he can create space and has a quick trigger on his jump shot. He is also able to lean on his jump shot to create even greater distance between himself and the defender without affecting his accuracy too badly.

Although Mitchell is heaped with praise for his offensive abilities, he remains an underrated defender. Mitchell is able to use his quick feet, which he uses to devastating effect on offence, to stay in front of his opponent. His ability to take advantage of small cracks of daylight translates brilliantly to the defensive end, where he can slip through tight screens.

Sobey will need to make sure he capitalises on any space between himself and Mitchell. Mitchell is also very fast, so there will be some close foot races down the court between the two of them.

Sobey is a physical defender and will undoubtedly make his presence known to the electrifying Mitchell every step of the way. Mitchell is fantastic at operating in confined spaces, so the feisty Adelaide guard will need to tighten his defensive clamps extra securely.

Ingles vs. Moore

Perth didn’t have to worry about Joe Ingles in their blowout game, as he sat on the sidelines with some leg soreness. It doesn’t appear Adelaide will have the same luxury. Swingman Ramone Moore will need to be at his best to combat the sharpshooting Utah forward. The 2018 NBL Sixth Man of the Year is a very versatile player, who gives Adelaide invaluable injections of points and defence.

On offence Moore is predominantly a slasher. He has fantastic agility and can abruptly change direction when driving to the basket. Although his inclination is to drive into the paint, Moore has a very dependable jump shot. Last year he shot a very impressive 41% from behind the arc.

The American import is a gifted scorer, and his ability to fuel Adelaide’s high-octane offence with his athletic play style will be vital for Adelaide. His knack for scoring points will be important in making sure Ingles is kept honest on defence. Moore is quicker than Ingles, an edge both he and the Adelaide system should make use of.

Equally important for the 36ers will be Moore’s defensive coverage of Ingles. If given a long leash, Ingles will be a source of significant pain for the 36ers. He is one of the best three-point shooters in the world, shooting with an accuracy of 44% last NBA season.

Denying Ingles open shots will likely be a huge point of emphasis for Moore. In his first preseason game against Toronto, Ingles scored 24 points and hit 5 three-pointers, showing no sign of preseason cobwebs.

When playing on the ball Ingles is a very gifted playmaker. Even if Ingles doesn’t appear to be an immediate threat to score, Moore will need to pressure the passing lanes and hope to limit Ingles’ playmaking abilities.

Favors vs. Wiley

Jacob Wiley is athletic and energetic forward who is comfortable playing both the small and power forward position. He plays the game hard, and will be Adelaide’s workhorse on the boards. The 36ers will likely try to outrun Utah, and Wiley is a great fit for that strategy.

Wiley has a big task ahead of him guarding big Utah forward Derrick Favors. Utah’s big front court duo of Rudy Gobert and Favors inflicted a lot of early damage on Perth, and the two were a big reason why Utah’s lead ballooned so quickly.

Wiley does have the athletic gifts to be able to combat Favors under the basket and collect rebounds. However, Favors has a height and weight advantage that will be a big factor in his advantage. It will therefore be important for Wiley to fight hard for prime position when rebounding.

Adelaide’s strength is their ability to quickly counterattack following missed shots by their opposition. In order for their strength to come into effect, securing defensive rebounds will be crucial. Wiley’s effect on the game will primarily be seen in his rebounding column.

Favors is a natural low post scorer, and if necessary can venture out and be a threat from mid-range. The big forward is not typically the focal point of the Jazz’s offensive schemes. However, given his size advantage, they may look to get him touches. Wiley’s 213cm wingspan should help to even the play field.

Wiley’s propensity to run hard in transition will help to stimulate Adelaide’s offence. Once the 36ers secure the rebounds it will be Wiley’s task to run as hard as he can down court to either finish with ferocity himself, or act as a decoy.

Wiley may not finish the game with a huge amount of points next to his name, but his impact in other areas of the game will be important to the 36er’s plans. Look for him to be the one that does the 36er’s dirty work.

Gobert vs. Johnson

Daniel Johnson is one of the most skilled Australian big men playing basketball right now. Standing at 212cm, and equipped with a deep bag of tricks, Johnson is Adelaide’s go-to scorer.

The 36er’s tall centrepiece is a threat no matter where he is on the court. He has the speed and mobility to be able to propel Adelaide’s transition offence, often leading the charge himself when they get out and run. Johnson has great court awareness and knows how to best position himself to capitalise on easy scoring opportunities. Johnson is going to demand almost full-court coverage by Utah, and will really test the preseason cardio fitness of Gobert.

Wiley has an incredibly well developed post game, but is just as lethal when he steps outside of the paint. His effective range stretches out to the three-point line where he shot 36% last season. Johnson’s gift for nailing jump shots will draw Gobert out to the perimeter; thereby opening the paint up for the 36ers.

With his combination of size and freakish length Gobert is a shot-blocking machine and will make Johnson earn his money in the post. Johnson’s ability to hurt the Jazz with his post game, could be crucial in diminishing the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year’s influence on the game.

Although Johnson is quick getting up and down the floor, he will struggle to compete with Gobert’s verticality. Aside from being a terrific defender, the Frenchman has a good nose for the ball, especially when rebounding. His athleticism, together with his height and reach, make him a tough assignment under the basket. Johnson is going to have to work to out-position Gobert if he is to have a chance in one-on-one rebounding battles.

If Adelaide can execute their transition game and put the Jazz on the back foot, it may influence whether or not Gobert lingers to grab offensive rebounds, or decides to get back on defence.


Catch the Adelaide 36ers against the Utah Jazz on Saturday, October 6 @ 10am AEST.

Oliver Kay

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Freelance sport journalist with a love for all things basketball.

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