Salt Lake City — It’s not often that the Pistons roll into Salt Lake City and pick up a win. It’s even more rare that they complete a season sweep of the Utah Jazz.
With a come-from-behind win in Detroit on Jan. 10, both feats were in play with a victory on Friday night.
The Pistons played close for most of the night, but couldn’t pull ahead in the final minutes, and the Jazz held on for a 111-101 win at Vivint Arena. The loss drops the Pistons to 1-2 on their four-game western road trip, with the finale at Denver on Sunday night.
Cade Cunningham had 25 points, six rebounds, five assists and three blocks, Trey Lyles 16 points and five rebounds and Rodney McGruder 15 points and four rebounds for the Pistons (11-34).
The Pistons were within 95-94 at the 6:35 mark of the fourth quarter, after a 3-pointer by McGruder and a floater by Josh Jackson. McGruder tied his career high with five 3-pointers and sparked the bench group, who had a 39-35 margin over the Jazz.
Rudy Gobert (24 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks) answered with a putback and then a dunk for a three-point play.
The Pistons had some defensive issues, where they lost an open man and Utah took advantage.
“We had a couple lapses where we lost guys and gave up some open looks,” Cunningham said. “Down the stretch, we can’t give up those kinds of looks.”
Cunningham scored on a baseline jumper, but the Jazz kept the pressure on with a jumper by Bogdan Bogdanovic (23 points and six rebounds) and a putback by Jordan Clarkson, who had 20 points.
Lyles had another 3-pointer at the 2:03 mark that pulled the Pistons within 105-101, but Mike Conley Jr. (19 points) put things away in the final minute. Conley scored on a drive and made two free throws to help give the Jazz some cushion.
The disparity on free throws was a big difference also, with the Jazz going 29-of-34 from the line, while the Pistons were just 12-of-16.
“We put them on the free-throw line 34 times, and I thought our compete level was good,” coach Dwane Casey said. “On offense, we got the looks we wanted, and we missed some open shots, but you can’t put a team on the line double of what you’re attempting.
“A lot of them were cheap, reach-in fouls. We were reacting the entire night and got ourselves in foul trouble. I liked our compete level, but now we’ve got to put our head into it and not reach and grab and some ticky-tack fouls that get them in the penalty and kind of keep their momentum going.”
The Pistons trailed by four in the final two minutes and Bey had good look at a 3-pointer in the corner, but the shot just didn’t fall.
“Kelly (Olynyk) had a heck of a pass out to the corner and, then even at the end he had a good look,” Casey said. “We shot 42% from three and we like that but, but it’s just that the foul differential was a huge difference.”