After two seasons of reunion games for Adrian Dantley and Kelly Tripucka, the '89 version of Jazz-Pistons offers two other matchups worth watching: Isiah Thomas vs. John Stockton and the NBA's No. 1 defense vs. the No. 2 defense.
They meet Wednesday night in The Palace, a 21,000-seat arena and potential model for the Jazz's new building.Dantley and Detroit won three of four games against Tripucka and the Jazz in the last two years, but A.D. moved on to Dallas before facing the Jazz this season. That leaves Stockton and Thomas in a duel of All-Star point guards and, on the less glamorous side, the NBA's two best defenses.
Detroit's .445 field-goal defense would top the '87-88 Jazz's mark as the best of the '80s in the NBA, but the Jazz's .433 figure this season is even better. The Pistons' defensive work is impressive, considering they have to do without the luxury of a shot-blocking center like Mark Eaton.
"Detroit plays better defense," said New Jersey Coach Willis Reed, who faced both teams back to back.
The Piston's defense is led by guard Joe Dumars and sixth man Dennis Rodman,
but is weakened slightly by the absence of forward John Salley, out with an injury.
The Jazz's defense crumbled in the first two games of this trip, with Denver shooting .510 and Indiana hitting .625, but Coach Jerry Sloan blamed the Jazz offense for his team's trouble. "If you take quick shots, you find yourself in a hole a lot," he noted. "It all stemmed from the way we executed in the halfcourt game."
While the Jazz recovered just barely enough to beat New Jersey Monday, they do have one thing in their favor tonight - the schedule.
The game arrives between two big games for the Pistons against Central Division leader Cleveland; Detroit lost to the Cavs on the road Tuesday and faces them again Friday.
The Jazz, meanwhile, will have a respectable 2-4 trip if they just win at Miami Friday - a win over Detroit Wednesday or Atlanta Sunday would just be a bonus.
Team FG Pct. Avg. -100 games
Jazz .433 100.5 29
Pistons .445 100.8 25