The rested Utah Jazz (24-16) are set to take on the potentially road-weary Detroit Pistons (18-23) tonight. The game will be nationally televised (ESPN) and will start at 8:30 PM MST. The Jazz will be coming off of 2 full days of rest after beating the Cleveland Cavaliers at home on Tuesday night. The Pistons, on the other hand, are in the midst of a 5-game Western Conference road trip and are coming off of a late-night loss to the Golden State Warriors last night. The Pistons kept it close until being outscored by 22 points in the 3rd quarter.
Looks like the Pistons might be packing this one in early and getting some extra rest for Utah tomorrow night.— Ben Dowsett (@Ben_Dowsett) January 13, 2017
This has the makings of a scheduling loss for the Pistons and/or scheduling win for the Jazz. In their last game, the Jazz changed up their routine to account for the effects of long road trips. The game against the Cavs on Tuesday was the first game back at home for the Jazz after a 5-game road trip back East. Quin Snyder, who has said before that the first game back from a long road trip feels like a road game, decided to cancel shootaround on Tuesday before the game. The team did not practice on Monday either. It worked. The Jazz looked sharp against the reigning NBA-champion Cavs and got the W.
The Pistons are in a slightly different situation than the Jazz were on Tuesday and likely won't have the luxury of changing up routines given the quick turnaround from last night's game. This game isn't a given though. The Pistons are battling to climb into the 8th spot in the Eastern conference playoffs and have wins over Cleveland, Charlotte, and Portland (double OT on the road) in their last 10 games.
The Jazz are in their own battle for playoff positioning and may be about to hit their stride. The Jazz are currently 5th in the West and trail the Los Angeles Clippers in the standings by 2.5 games. The Oklahoma City Thunder have the same record as the Jazz and the Memphis Grizzlies are only a half game back.
There are a few reasons to be optimistic about tonight's game and the next couple of months of Jazz basketball:
-The Jazz should see a lot of wins. The Jazz are hitting the soft spot in their schedule and should be favored to win in each of their next 14 games (including tonight's game). Tonight's game could be a trap game if the Jazz lose focus but it doesn't feel like one (but that's what makes it a trap you see) given how well the Jazz played on Tuesday.
-The Jazz are finally healthy. It felt weird and a little scary to type that. But facts are facts (don't shush the messenger). We should see some tinkering with lineups as Snyder goes full mad scientist with his full complement of players. As has been well-documented, the Jazz are so healthy that they are utilizing their D-League affiliate to get extra reps for Alec Burks and Raul Neto.
-The Jazz have Rudy Gobert and Gordon Hayward who are vying for all-star spots. The more winning they do in the next several games leading up to when the coaches select the final spots on the team the better. It wouldn't be surprising to see these guys have some big games (like Hayward against the Cavs) to help their cases. Tonight, I would expect Gobert to have a great game against Andre Drummond, who was an All Star Center for the East last year.