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Pistons vs Jazz Preview: Donovan Mitchell? Donovan Mitchell! DONOVAN MITCHELL!!!!!

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There, now it’s out of your system.

Utah Jazz v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Cruel masters, they, the gods. But their will is writ, and so, we prostrate ourselves before them.

I don’t ask for a lot, so I ask for what I need. And I need this one, Basketball Gods.

Game Vitals:

When: Wednesday, January 24, 7:00 p.m. EST
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, Michigan
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit, NBA League Pass
Wager: Detroit -2.0

Analysis:

The Jazz, at 19-28, have under-performed preseason expectations. Even after the loss of Gordon Hayward to the Boston Celtics, the thinking was that Dennis Lindsey had constructed a roster full of solid defensive players who could move the ball just enough to manufacture offense. Unfortunately, perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate Rudy Gobert missed 15 games starting in mid-December, and the Jazz have never recovered from going 4-11 during that stretch.

Offensively, at a glance, a pressing issue for the Jazz looks to be that it is hard for them to score when Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert, and Ricky Rubio are all on the floor together. That three-man grouping has a 90.0 ORTG, which is NOT good. That wouldn’t be an issue if those guys never played together, but that’s three-fifths of their starting lineup now that Gobert is back.

Utah also currently is missing Thabo Sefalosha (MCL injury) and Rodney Hood (hyper-extended knee) - two additional wings they count on for scoring and shooting, leaving Alec Burks, Joe Johnson, and Joe Ingles the remaining talent on the wing. What this ends up meaning is that Utah relies a lot on one man for scoring punch:

Donovan Mitchell.

*Long, slow exhale*

Mitchell has been better this season than even his most fervent pre-draft advocates would have expected - 19 points a game on a 44/34/83 slashline with 1.5 steals thrown on top for good measure is a line you just don’t see out of rookies. However, he looks like an All-Star when the Jazz win, and the 21-year-old rookie he is when the Jazz lose:

That sentence is probably backwards - it might be more accurate to say that the Jazz need Mitchell to play like an All-Star to win, and when he’s mortal, they don’t stand a chance. Utah is coming off a 14-point loss to the moribund Atlanta Hawks on Monday because the Hawks spent the entire game clamping Mitchell up. I wouldn’t have a problem with Avery Bradley treating Donovan Mitchell QUITE rudely during his first visit to Little Caesars Arena.

The Detroit Pistons have lost five in a row, with a 103.5 ORTG and 109.0 DRTG during those games. Lately, the Pistons have followed a predictable pattern - deficits early, unsuccessful comebacks late in each half. In the last five games, their quarters break down like so:

1st quarter: 99.4 ORTG/110 DRTG (-11.7 net rating)

2nd quarter: 109.4/95.7 (13.7)

3rd quarter: 96.5/127.8 (-31.4!?!?!?!?!!?!!)

4th quarter: 108.6/102.6 (6.0)

(I gotta say, I expected the third quarter numbers to be bad, but not THAT bad. Bruh.)

To focus on the positives, I wonder what the second and fourth quarters have in common? What could it be?

It’s a mystery.

Something to keep an eye on is the positive play of late from Stanley Johnson, who has returned to the lineup in the last two games. I don’t want the kid traded (or maybe I do...) but until that does or doesn’t happen it’s good to have Stanley playing well. One element that could be contributing to Stanley’s elevated play is getting minutes next to Luke Kennard:

The reason for the positive pairing might not only be because Luke is a great offensive player. Some of it also may be due to Luke being... left handed.

Huh? I’ll let Stanley explain:

That’s plausible to me, and it’s a reminder of all the little things that go in to a successful lineup grouping. Maybe after the trade deadline we’ll see more of those guys together... in the starting lineup?

At the absolute least, Stan Van Gundy needs to play these guys together and maintain the positive feedback loop they have. Friendly reminder - both of those guys haven’t turned 22 yet.

Projected Lineups:

Detroit:
Ish Smith, Avery Bradley, Reggie Bullock, Tobias Harris, Andre Drummond

Utah:
Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert

Prediction:

Let’s just say this might be the last time I predict a Pistons win in a while.

Detroit 104, Utah 96.