Over the next 13 days and seven games, the Utah Jazz will exclusively face teams that own records below .500 (that could be extended to 19 days and 10 games depending on where Jan. 14 opponent, the 16-15 Brooklyn Nets are in the coming days). That stretch begins with a home matchup with the Detroit Pistons.
These two teams are on fairly opposite paths at the moment. Reverse the schedule 10 games for both sides and the records were much closer than they are now with 20-12 Utah eight full wins ahead of the 12-21 Pistons. The Jazz were still ahead in that past reality (12-10 vs 9-14), but the distance between in terms of record wasn’t much more than a hop, skip and jump away.
But with those 10 games in the rear-view mirror, it’s clear which was these two teams are headed. The Jazz are moving onward and upward while the Pistons lay mired in mediocrity.
When: Monday, Dec. 30, 2019 • 7:00 p.m. MST
Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena • Salt Lake City, UT
TV: AT&T Sports Net Rocky Mountain
Radio: 97.5 FM | 1280 AM The Zone
What to watch for:
The Return of Rose
Detroit’s current sixth man, second-leading scorer and top assist-getter, Derrick Rose, made something of a statement last year. In a defiant middle-finger to those who said he was washed and his career irrelevant, Rose dropped 50 points in a Oct. 31 Minnesota win over an unsuspecting Utah. Rose has not faced the Jazz since then, being inactive for the two ensuing T-Wolves matchups against Utah.
Rose is clearly in the midst of a career resurgence, averaging over 17 points per game and five assists across his last two seasons in America’s north with Minnesota and Detroit. He’s a dangerous weapon that could go off at any time, as the Jazz know all-too-well.
Rudy vs Andre
Any time these two guys face off, it’s a show. Often overlooked for the more flashy, points-scoring centers, Andre Drummond and Rudy Gobert are two epic forces of nature in the paint. Drummond has been the league’s preeminent rebounder for three years straight and shows no signs of slowing down while Gobert is the two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year.
If not properly corralled on defense, both Drummond and Gobert are capable of scoring points. The former is actually the Piston’s leading scorer at 18 points per game this year, though, in the month of December, Gobert has averaged 16.9 points.
Jordan Clarkson and the Jazz bench
This will continue to be over-analyzed in the coming days and months. One of the top talking points of December for the Jazz was the lack of bench production, efficiency and obviously scoring. Going out and getting an established bench scorer proved the Utah front office too, was concerned about the direction the bench was headed.
Clarkson’s debut saw him go 4 for 12 from the field with nine points, then follow up that performance with a 7 of 13 shooting night with 19 points, crucial contributions in Utah’s win over the Clippers on Saturday.
Game three of Clarkson’s time in Utah will draw plenty of attention and analysis, though not without good reason.
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