The Utah Jazz host the Detroit Pistons tonight. It will be the third game in Utah's season long five game home stand, and the forth game in Detroit's really bad road trip of doom. The Pistons haven't won on this trip yet, and are not feeling too good about themselves after losing nine of their last ten games. The Jazz, on the other hand, are flying high right now having won 8 of their last ten.
It's hard to drop a team to ten straight losses in a row, Utah barely avoided it with a spectacular win against the Spurs so many months ago. Detroit will look to do the same with a win tonight.
The Pistons offense has been struggling of late, like a broken down car. In their last 10 games they have averages 97.0 ppg, and a 102.6 ORTG. During the last 10 games the Jazz are holding teams to 84.9 ppg, and a measly 95.1 ORTG.
At full strength Detroit is a dangerous team in the East; but without Brandon Jennings you have to wonder where their actual offensive punch lies. Greg Monroe, Reggie Jackson, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are solid to good offensive players. There are a lot of 'situational' guys from old vets like Tayshaun Prince and Caron Butler to young role players like Jodie Meeks and Cartier Martin out there. Anthony Tolliver can make some shots if left unguarded, and Andre Drummond is really good at dunking / offensive put backs. But even on paper I do not expect that this team is able to solve the riddle that is the Jazz defense.
Even worse for Detroit, they have the legit size (Drummond, Monroe, Tolliver, and Joel Anthony) to actually match up against Utah with size. This means they get more offensive rebounds, and the Jazz have to work for things, but this allows the tempo to be slower as well. In the last 10 games the Pistons have played at a 92.8 possession per game pace. Part of that is due to who they have played recently (Warriors, Houston, and so forth). The Jazz defense is straight up boa-constrictive when the pace is slowed down. In the last 10 the Jazz have played at a pace of play that's been only 89.4 possessions per 48 minutes.
This magnifies the importance of defense. You're not going to get enough opportunities to make up for missed shots this way. Detroit, for the season, plays at a quick pace of play (93.3) than the Jazz (90.3) -- Utah is the slowest team in the league, while Detroit is 20th. Detroit goes 17th / 18th in ORTG / DRTG, while Utah goes 15th / 16th. On paper these are two very close teams, but with recent history and momentum in favor of the Jazz -- this could be a tougher game for Detroit unless they can force their pace on Utah.
It's their 4th game in five nights, though -- I don't know how happy they are to run right now, in a higher altitude.
I'm not trying to take anything away from Detroit. But from the evidence we have, it could be a tough game for them.
For the Jazz, man, Gordon Hayward and company have to go all Mola Ram early and often. In a slow pace game, G-Time's efficiency is off the charts right now. Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert will fight hard in the paint all game long, and Joe Ingles, Elijah Millsap, and Rodney Hood (all rookies) will make some shots.
Dante Exum needs to blanket Reggie Jackson, though. And from what we've seen of him defensively the last few games against Patrick Beverley, Deron Williams, Mike Conley, Ty Lawson, and Tony Parker it's likely that he will succeed.
I got lots of love for Detroit. But they've only won in Utah twice since 2002. Jazz can't overlook Detroit, if they play their game they will win.