Detroit — The new year has brought a new mindset for the Pistons, after a disappointing start to the season. They could be playing their best stretch of the season, with three wins in their last five games.
Make it four in the last six.
The Pistons overcame a 22-point first-half deficit and pushed out to a lead of their own in the third quarter, snatching a 126-116 victory from the Utah Jazz on Monday night at Little Caesars Arena.
After a dismal first half, the Pistons started the third quarter with a flurry, including a pair of 3-pointers from Cade Cunningham, who finished with a career-high 29 points, along with eight assists. Saddiq Bey chipped in 29 points and six rebounds. They combined for 10 of the Pistons’ 19 3-pointers, and as a team, they shot a spectacular 51% from beyond the arc.
The Pistons’ 15 3-pointers in the second half set a new franchise record for a half.
Along with the win over the defending-champion Milwaukee Bucks last week, the Pistons are putting together a good string of upset wins. The way they overcame the deficit and stretched out the lead in the fourth quarter ranks among the best of the season.
“It’s definitely up there,” Bey said. “We were down early, 13-2, in the first stretch and we cut it down to 13 by halftime, and we knew we had a chance in the second half.
“We just kept grinding, kept playing fast and kept trusting each other, and then, down the stretch, everybody that was on the floor stepped up big. It’s definitely up there; it was a great team effort, so it was good to see.”
The Pistons had an 88-84 lead entering the fourth quarter and Saben Lee started the period with a steal and breakaway dunk.
The Jazz (28-13) answered with a 9-0 run, with a 3-pointer from Jordan Clarkson (16 points) and a three-point play from Eric Paschall. Hassan Whiteside (21 points and 14 rebounds) made one of two free throws and Utah regained the lead, 93-90, at the 9:53 mark.
The Pistons responded with a 12-3 run, with a pair of baskets from Josh Jackson (11 points and six rebounds) and a 3-pointer and jumper from Trey Lyles (14 points, six rebounds and five assists).
After a jumper by Donovan Mitchell, who had 31 points and four assists, Cunningham continued his onslaught. Cunningham hit a 3-pointer and on the next possession, he added a three-point play, pushing the lead to 108-100 with 5:57 left.
Unlike several games this season when they’ve squandered leads, the Pistons held on down the stretch this time, with a 3-pointer from Joseph — who was 4-of-4 from beyond the arc — and another from Bey, to help put the game away.
The Jazz got within seven after a three-point play by Bogdan Bogdanovic to get within 114-107 at the 4:14 mark, and Mike Conley Jr. (13 points, five rebounds and eight assists) added a 3-pointer to get within six.
Bey knocked down another 3-pointer to push the lead back to nine, and the Pistons held on the rest of the way.
The Jazz jumped to a 19-9 advantage in the first six-plus minutes and they held a 35-21 lead after the first quarter. Utah extended the lead behind Whiteside, who had 18 points and six rebounds in his first 14 minutes of game action.
Whiteside had six of the Jazz’s field goals during a dominating stretch inside, when they build the lead to 59-32, at the 6:11 mark of the second quarter. The Pistons rallied in the third quarter, with an 8-1 run, including a pair of baskets from Hamidou Diallo (10 points, eight rebounds and four assists), and Killian Hayes added a 3-pointer and a jumper, helping to trim the lead to 61-48 at halftime.
“The players did an excellent job at halftime of bringing more life to the game, more spirit, more togetherness. It was just really good, more energy. I thought at halftime, we really picked it up, and we fell down by 22 at one point,” said Rex Kalamian, who was the acting head coach, with Dwane Casey in health and safety protocols. “They just kind of fought back, little by little, and we kept talking about chipping away, little by little chip away.
“We said, ‘Let’s keep getting better every 12 minutes,’ and the players did a great job of buying into it, and I’m very, very proud of how they played.”