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Utah Jazz at Detroit Pistons Game Preview: Five things to watch

Game #1: Jazz (0-0) @ Pistons (1-0)
Location: Auburn Hills, MI
Time: 5:30 PM MT
TV: ROOT Sports
Radio: 1280 AM / 97.5 FM

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, it's finally here. The Utah Jazz start the NBA Season with a game tonight against the Detroit Pistons (1-0). One SLC Dunker is going to be at the game, so shout out to Gilad Perry -- one of our most diehard and talented international Jazzfans. In a better situation I would have driven up with MyLo to catch it, but life gets in the way. The Pistons played last night and beat the Atlanta Hawks. Stan Van Gundy's team went a whopping 9 deep and their starters all played big minutes. Will the Jazz be able to take advantage of that tonight? This and four more things to watch in the #UTAatDET game preview!


1. Recent Play:

The Pistons played last night, and the Jazz did not. Both teams should be relatively fresh as this is the beginning of the season. Brandon Jennings, the starting point guard for the Pistons, is out. Their lack of depth could be an issue going forward, and in the short term. Their starting unit from last night, Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris, Ersan Ilyasova, and Andre Drummond, played a combined 177 of a total possible 240 minutes. That's over 73%, so, maybe they aren't tired, but aren't as fresh as the idle Jazz will be.

Utah is also without their starting point guard, as Dante Exum is out for the season. Also, the Jazz will be without the services of Trevor Booker, who will honor his preseason suspension by missing the first game of the regular season. This means the Quin Snyder may have to use a shorter bench than expected . . . but knowing him . . . it may be a chance to really try some guys out inside. Trey Lyles is a reasonable PF replacement, however I wouldn't be surprised to see Snyder sneak in some more minutes for Jeff Withey, Tibor Pleiss, or even Gordon Hayward at the four.

Detroit played well last night, beating Atlanta 106-94. They shot 41% from downtown while getting to the line 26 times. More impressive were their 23 offensive rebounds that led to a grand total of 59 for the game. That was a +19 rebounding advantage for the Motor City. Not surprisingly, Andre Drummond finished with 18 and 19, with three assists, two blocks, and a steal. He will be an active source of terror in the paint all season long.


2. History:

We all know about the Karl Malone - Isiah Thomas thing. But the Jazz have pretty much owned the Pistons -- being 57-33 overall in their regular season play over the last four decades. Furthermore, the Jazz hold the edge IN DETROIT, having a 23-22 record there. Of course, last season the Pistons lost both games to the Jazz. That seems to be what normally happens.

It's always fun to watch this Basketball John video.


3. Strategy:

Stan Van Gundy plays with four guys out, one guy in. It's simple but effective. The Houston Rockets won two rings doing it. The Orlando Magic went to two finals doing it, once with Shaquille O'Neal, and the other time with Dwight Howard. Stan is trying to do that this year more and more with Drummond inside. Drummond is offensively challenged, but this team has the horses to hoist up a lot of threes. They'll maintain the spacing that kills the Jazz. Six guys took threes for them last night, KCP went 4/7, but Ersan, Marcus, and rookie Stanley Johnson ended up taking 13 total. All three "could" see time at the four tonight. Anthony Tolliver is another guy who can do that, but he didn't play last night because his wife had a baby. Derrick Favors isn't built for chasing around face up fours outside the arc. I think both head coaches know that.

The other good news is that there's only two Jazz killers available tonight in Morris and Ilyasova. Jennings isn't going to play. Last season Morris (yes, this Morris, not the one in Phoenix) dropped 34 and 12 on the Jazz. Back in 2014 Ersan dropped 31 and 5.




Both teams without their starting point guards, both teams have defensive bigs. The big difference is that while they also have stretch bigs, the Jazz have a plethora of wing power. It's going to be fun to see how KCP, Stanley Johnson, and Jodie Meeks match up against Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, and Rodney Hood. Frankly, this is where the Jazz have the advantage and need to press it.

I think Detroit has a PG advantage here with their experienced and expensive guys Reggie Jackson and Steve Blake. Raul Neto is untested and Trey Burke . . .well . . .


5. X-Factors:

Trey Burke always brings some magic back to him when he plays in Michigan. His first 20-10 game of his career was against these same Pistons, and I think he is dedicated to start his "redemption season 2015-2016" off with a good showing in an arena that unironically still roots for him to succeed. How he is able to handle the hyper aggressive Reggie Jackson is going to be fun. Jackson finished last game with 15 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals.

The other big issue for this game will be the free throw line. Both teams may start off shakey with their outside shooting, but the freebies will matter in this close game. Utah has been historically bad of late. Detroit shot nearly 80% last night. Yikes.



Amar is going to miss out on watching this game live.