The Utah Jazz play game 2 of their 3 game road trip tonight. It's more than just an Eastern conference slog in the middle of winter, it's the home coming game (of sorts) for Jazz rookie point guard Trey Burke. Burke, if you didn't know, played college ball at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor. It's only a drive (in the snow) to get up to Auburn Hills for this game. He's going to be cheered on tonight by all of his fans here in the state of Michigan. I wouldn't be surprised to see some of his own hometown people from Ohio here for this game either. (Trey was born and raised there) The Radio and paper and TV, and internet have been buzzing about this game for a while.
They're almost giving tickets away -- which is kind of important because the Detroit Pistons have the absolute lowest home attendance in the entire NBA right now. Which is kinda sad because the Pistons are the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference, re-loaded with visible vets, and should be a hard out in the playoffs. Of course, because this is Detroit, things haven't worked according to plan. Maurice Cheeks knows his way around the game, but so far the team looks like a mess. They have a losing record at home (7-12), are middle of the pack in overall offense and defense, but are barely getting by.
They manage only 99.5 points per game (17th best), and play at an above average pace (14th), but things are so bad on offense. It's awful. Detroit has the 23rd best eFG%, rarely go to the FT line, they do take care of the ball at an average level, but are HORRIBLE from downtown and from the line. They are 30th in 3PT% (31.2%) and 30th in FT% (66.2%). They are missing a lot of shots -- and it's not a big secret why. The only thing they really do well is that they get a lot of second change points. And third chance points. And some fourth chance points. Their offense is like our offense a few years ago when we could only score off of offensive rebounds (before we got Mo Williams and Randy Foye to shoot all of the threes). Detroit is #1 on ORB%, and that's going to be an obvious point of attack because their most frequent shooters are not frequently makers.
Defensively the Pistons should be better, but they're not. Teams shoot 46.2 fg% (26th), 36.9 3pt% (24th), 78.9 ft% (30th), and 51.2 eFG% (24th) against them. They do force a lot of turn overs, and are average at protecting their glass -- bu they tend to foul and, well, like I said -- teams shoot really well against them. Is that an Xs and Os thing? Is that a defensive structure thing? Is that a personnel thing? Or just bad luck? It's probably a lot of each of those things. You'd think they'd be better.
Especially since they are healthy. Detroit has gone 3-7 in their last 10 games, dropping games to the Toronto Raptors, New York Knicks, Memphis Grizzlies, twice to the Washington Wizards, the Orlando Magic, Charlotte Bobcats, and so forth. These are the types of teams that we can compete against or have beaten so far this year. At the end of the day I think it's a problem with the players they have. They mostly scuttled what worked last year in favor of these veteran free agent pick ups and veteran trade pieces.
I'm not going to like. I like Brandon Jennings, but he's hurting the team even though he's their "best" player right now. he's shooting 37.7 fg%, and taking 15.3 shots a game. While he does get to the line 4.3 times a game, and is respectable (34.0 3pt%) from downtown; as a scorer he helps explain why the Pistons offense looks so poor. He does dish out 8.5 apg, so it's not like he's the only problem. He does good things too. The other major problem, though, is Josh Smith. Smith is shooting 40.7 fg% this year and taking 15.2 shots a game. He gets to the line even less frequently and has fallen in love with the deep shot. Or maybe he always was this way -- just never this bad. He's taking 3.8 threes a game, and making 25.2 3pt% this season. So, keep shooting them.
The inside of Drummond and Monroe is solid. Drum is averaging a double double and swats nearly 2 shots a game. Moose is nearly at a double double himself with 14.8 ppg and 9.0 rpg. They both shoot well from the field but are horrible from the line. Monroe is at 63.4 ft%, and Drum is at 37.8 ft%. Their offense needs work.
Their rookie shooting guard is good at shooting, but he can't fix their offense by himself. Kentavious can make the three, and he and guys like Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum can change a game when they are playing well. But there's a reason why they don't all start -- they're even less reliable game to game than people like Brandon Jennings is.
What about our Jazz? Well, as far as I can tell Gordo will still be a game time decision. So I'm game planning this preview like he's out. (If he's good to go that'll be in the Game Thread) We're even worse than the Pistons. Our offense is less inefficient, but we're still not great. We don't just rely on the offensive rebounds, we can make free throws and threes -- but by the raw data we're just not scoring as much as they are. We're even worse on defense. At least the Pistons are okay on defense. We're not. We're the worst defensive team in the league on defense.
If Gordon is out we will see much more of Brandon. So let's go to the numbers...
|8||John Lucas III||1||2||39||16.5||4.6||1.1||1.3||0.6||2.2||0.4||0.0||5.8||17.1%||12.1%||3.7%|
Uh-huh. Favors is not getting a double double, but he will be in trouble if he's expected to go 1 vs 3 on the inside tonight against Detroit. It would be a good time for, I dunno, Enes Kanter and Rudy Gobert tonight. But Tyrone Corbin only knows why we decide to a) play slow, and b) play small ball. It's not an original criticism of mine, but it's a fundamental Xs and Os question that I'd love for one of the beat writers to ask about.
I guess it really does boil down to Trey Burke tonight, though. Or Alec Burks. Or both of them. I don't trust my head coach enough to adjust the lineups to whatever mismatches we have, so I will put my faith instead to the players who will have the ball in their hands. Both Burke and Burks have gone for 30 this season. They may have to do it again if we can't get our small ball offense going against a team that starts Josh Smith at SF.
Historically the Jazz do okay in Detroit, and are 21-22 on the road here; and 54-32 overall against the Pistons. We're the worst team in the Western Conference. They are the number 7 seed in the East. They should win. They are at home. They have the more high profile players and coach. But, man, I kinda feel that this is a game we can take. Especially because it's Trey Burke's homecoming game.