Opponent Scouting: Utah Jazz. (19-20)
Tonight at 7:00pm EST the Pistons will be hosting the Utah Jazz at the LCA. The Pistons are on two days of rest after defeating the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday. The Jazz are on the second night of a back to back after crushing the Cleveland Cavaliers yesterday.
The Jazz are not the elite team many pegged them to be after a red-hot streak to finish last season and an impressive playoff performance against the Thunder. They come into the game with the 5th best defensive efficiency in the NBA by allowing 105.3 points per 100 possessions and the 21st offensive efficiency by scoring 107.4 points per 100 possessions.
There’s a few things that explain the Jazz fall-back this season. First and foremost, their defense has not been as fearsome, 5th in the NBA is still very good, but their run last season was fueled by all-world defense. Players are still struggling on offense more than they expected, but offense was always going to be a struggle for this group. If they want to meet the lofty expectations set for them they will have to re-find their elite defense.
Donovan Mitchell is still here, but he’s been poor. He’s scoring 20 points per game, but shooting just 29% from deep and has a true shooting of 50.3% which is a number that makes Reggie Jackson blush. He’s also assisting in 3.4 baskets but coming with 2.6 turnovers. He may hit a stride and really get going like last season, but he is currently experiencing a serious sophomore slump and another good example of how stupid it is to push stardom onto young players just because you think they will be that good eventually.
Rudy Gobert is the defensive anchor of the team, his rim protection is as good as it gets and he is a good rebounder. On the offensive end he rim-runs his way to efficient scoring. Joe Ingles is still very good and fun but he hasn’t been shooting as well from deep. Ricky Rubio is still a highly inefficient scorer (even if he’s still barely outpacing Mitchell in that regard) and great passer. Jae Crowder is still a solid 3 and D guy, Derrick Favors is big and skilled.
Kyle Korver remains an absolute sniper, Dante Exum is big and athletic at point guard even if he still can’t really shoot. Thabo Sefolosha is also still a nice 3 and D guy.
The Jazz still have a good roster and good coach. They will never be a easy game, but they are facing one of the toughest realities of NBA basketball: teams and players don’t usually get exponentially better from year to year. Sometimes they actually get worse across the board.
Matchups to watch:
Drummond vs. Gobert: Both players are absolute freaks. Both are integral to what their teams do on both ends.
Blake Griffin vs. Playing fast: We saw this against the Grizzlies, but Griffin playing faster and doing less dinking around with the ball in his hands does good things for the Pistons offense. It will be hard against a tough Jazz defense, but he needs to avoid dribbling the air out of the ball too often.
Bruce Brown vs. Making it work: I’m still not convinced he’s a good long-term option as a starter, but the new starting lineup has been very good and he’s getting just enough buckets to make it work. If he can continue to do that it would be huge.
Pistons vs. Mitchell: The key with Mitchell is to force him into his worst tendencies. He wants to shoot at all times, whether open or not. Just stick with him, make him try and do too much, and there’s a good chance he will come up with an inefficient night. If they start to give him space he can still hurt you though.
Pistons vs. Clawing back: The season is sort of in the balance. If the Pistons don’t string a nice stretch together the season will really spiral out of control. I think the front office would rather see this current roster win since any trade will be so hard to make, but if they want to do it, they have to do it now. There’s not much more room for error with this squad.
So in conclusion…
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
Andre Drummond is getting lose while Gobert does his shot-block thing but Drummond’s leaping ability allows him to get to lobs that Gobert doesn’t usually need to worry about.
Blake Griffin is being the best version of himself again.
Donovan Mitchell is missing a lot of shots but totally undeterred from continuing to take them.
Run for the hills if:
Donovan Mitchell starts slicing up the defense and Luke Kennard goes 0-13 or something just for good measure.
Rudy Gobert’s presence is giving the Pistons front-court duo trouble.
The Pistons last nice outing was purely a result of a cracking Grizzlies team and nothing has changed.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Luke Kennard scores more points than Donovan Mitchell (plz)
Andre Drummond 20/20 game.
This game is a total slog.
Pistons 88 - Jazz 85. (lol)
Programming note: My sister is getting married tonight so I won’t be watching the game, not live at least. I’m hoping to catch it on replay but there’s a chance there is no recap.