Detroit Pistons doomed by cold start against Utah Jazz in 96-86 defeat

Detroit Free Press

Omari Sankofa II
 
| Detroit Free Press

For the second game in a row, the Detroit Pistons trailed by 20 points. 

But unlike Friday, which featured a 23-point comeback against the Phoenix Suns, the Pistons fell short on Sunday, as the Utah Jazz handed the Pistons their eighth loss of the season, 96-86. 

Detroit trailed by 20 points late in the first quarter and by 17 at halftime. They managed to cut the deficit to five in the fourth quarter, trailing 91-86 after Wayne Ellington hit a 3-pointer at the 1:56 mark. They couldn’t close out the comeback bid, however. 

Jerami Grant led the Pistons with 28 points and added four rebounds, four assists and a block; Saddiq Bey scored 12 points. Donovan Mitchell scored 28 to lead the Jazz.

Derrick Rose missed the game with left knee soreness. 

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Grant extends scoring streak

It’s safe to say that if Grant had missed Sunday’s game against the Jazz, the final score would’ve been significantly uglier. 

The Pistons shot 33.3% overall and 23.8% from behind the arc. Grant was immune from the shooting woes, though, as he shot 50% (9-for-18 overall) while hitting three of his five 3-point attempts. 

He has now scored at least 20 points in nine consecutive games — tying a streak shared by two of the NBA’s other leading scorers, Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal and Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum. Since not doing so in the season opener, he has reached the 20-point threshold in every game this season.

Continued strides from Frank Jackson

Jackson has only been with the Pistons for two weeks, after signing a two-way contract on Dec. 27. Injuries have put the third-year guard in the rotation, and he’s making the most of his opportunity. 

After making his Pistons debut Friday and impressing Dwane Casey, Jackson had an even larger role Sunday with both Rose and Killian Hayes in street clothes. He checked in for the first time at the start of the second quarter and was immediately impactful. 

He intentionally drew an off-ball foul on Joe Ingles not long after entering the game, then tallied three points, three rebounds and three assists in seven second-quarter minutes. He pushed the ball in transition and showed an understanding of how to use his speed to open opportunities for his teammates. Similar to a play he made Friday, he found Okafor for an open dunk after attacking the rim and drawing the defense in. 

Casey allowed Jackson to start the fourth quarter, and he finished with 12 minutes played. He wasn’t as effective in his second stint, airballing a stepback 3-pointer at one point as the clock wound down. But his energy helped Detroit stay in the game despite the Pistons’ early struggles. 

Making free throws, taking care of the ball

The Pistons’ offense has been inconsistent this season, to say the least. No team had more offseason roster turnover, and the season thus far has featured an extended process of learning each other’s habits and Casey’s playbook. 

But they’re above-average in two key areas this season — free throw shooting percentage, and not committing turnovers. Entering Sunday’s game, they were seventh in the NBA in their percentage at the line (80.4%) and eighth in turnovers committed per game (13.8). It’s a key reason why they’ve been able to hang around in nearly every game this season, despite their 2-7 overall record.

They continued to excel in those areas against Utah, making 18 of 21 attempts at the line (85.7%) and committing just eight turnovers. The low number of turnovers is particularly notable, as the Pistons had six turnovers by the 9:23 mark of the second quarter, then clamped down the rest of the way.  

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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