Under different circumstances, Monday’s game with the Detroit Pistons might not mean much to the Jazz.
But there’s nothing normal about their current circumstances.
Having dropped seven of their last eight contests, the Jazz (32-31) can’t afford to take Detroit (23-42) lightly.
Tonight’s game will be the Jazz’s first game back in Utah since last week’s dismal road trip that saw them lose four in a row, including a 29-point blowout to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
“A frustrating road trip for us but we’ve got to put that behind us,” Utah sixth man Gordon Hayward said.
The Pistons have lost five in a row, including a 129-97 loss to the Clippers on Sunday.
Detroit sits in fourth place in the Central Division and is the No. 11 team in the Eastern Conference. Given their record, the Pistons shouldn’t be much of a threat to the Jazz, but Utah isn’t about to overlook anyone.
“This game is very important for us, just like every game from here on out is going to be very important,” Hayward said. “No matter who we’re playing it’s going to be a tough one.”
When they Jazz left for last week’s road trip they were in seventh place in the Western Conference playoff chase. After three narrow losses at Milwaukee, Cleveland and Chicago, they were throttled by the Knicks and fell out of the playoff picture.
They now trail the Los Angeles Lakers by a 1/2 game in the standings.
“We’re still in the race, we’ve got to move forward,” Hayward said.
The Pistons are led by center Greg Monroe, who averages 16 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Guard Brandon Knight averages 14 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.
The Jazz are led by center Al Jefferson, who averages 17.6 points and 9.2 boards per contest. Point guard Mo Williams, who will be playing his fourth game since returning from thumb surgery, averages 12.1 points and 6.4 assists per game.
Having Williams back is a good thing for the Jazz, but they will still be without the services of power forward Paul Millsap, who missed the New York game with right knee inflammation and backup point guard Jamaal Tinsley (illness).
Millsap had an MRI done Sunday, revealing no structural damage. He missed Monday’s shootaround and has been listed as “questionable” for tonight’s game.
“(The road trip) was tough,” Jefferson said. “Three games we played well enough to win and then that last game, for whatever reason, we didn’t show up at all. We’re still in it. (Even with) all the negative stuff that’s been going on, we’ve still got a fighting chance with 19 games left. I feel real good, I still feel confident about it.”