By Kevin Sawyer
Jazz: 16-11 (6-7 road)
Margin: +3.6 ppg (+0.2 road)
Last 10: 5-5 (margin +1.4)
Pistons: 14-9 (7-4 home)
Margin: +0.3 ppg (+1.1 home)
Last 10: 6-4 (margin +1.7)
Tonight, Detroit gets the first major test of the small ball era, against a team it hasn’t beaten in three years. The Jazz are a balanced, deep team that gets it done at both ends of the court. Again, the Pistons encounter a team that is not at full strength. Carlos Boozer is a game time decision, and won’t be at 100% either way, Deron Williams is struggling with his game, and the Jazz have been this season’s biggest disappointment, aside from, well, the Pistons.
The Jazz play a very physical game, and are adept at luring their opponents into a similar approach. With Boozer out, Paul Milsapp has produced a rough facsimile of his production, and the Jazz have continued to thrive in the paint. Expect a slow, though not necessarily low scoring, game tonight.
That said, Coach Jerry Sloan may be moving in a different direction. Kyle Korver played most of the second half in a comeback win against New Jersey on Wednesday. The Jazz have been reluctant to utilize their perimeter game, but if Ronnie Brewer sits, one has to assume that approach will change considerably. The Jazz employ several capable three point shooters (Okur, Williams, Korver, Miles) who might get the greenlight if Boozer is unable to play.
This is a huge game for Detroit, and a very winnable one. There is no team more susceptible to the small ball approach than the Jazz, whose opponents shoot 27 free throws per game. Breaking a three-year mini-jinx would be a major coup for coach Curry.
Keys for Detroit:
Make Free Throws: The Pistons can expect to go to the line 30 times tonight. The difference between shooting 83% and shooting 60% amounts to seven points in this scenario.
Watch the three point line: The coaching staff has watched enough game film to know what Utah does. That said, all the preparation in the world is meaningless if Korver goes 7-9 from long range.
Let AI be AI: Iverson has gotten to the line 14 times and averaged 32 ppg against Utah the last three seasons. I wanna see him go Tripucka on these punks.
Question of the game:
Do Sheed and Prince still play for this team? If so, it ain’t showing up in the stat sheet.