The Detroit Pistons fought hard but lost a competitive basketball game against the Utah Jazz. After Detroit was blown out in all of their losses for the last three weeks, the competitive nature of the loss was a small step in the right direction.
The Pistons were in the game late. Down four with over a minute left, Kelly Olynyk drew two defenders and hit a wide open Saddiq Bey who missed a corner three. Mike Conley quickly scored two of his 19 points on the other end and the game was effectively over.
With Donovan Mitchell in the concussion protocol, the Jazz looked to Rudy Gobert on both ends. And it worked very well.
Detroit struggled mightily with Gobert in the first half. Utah’s movement led to a lot of switches and Gobert took advantage of interior position against smaller defender to the tune of 15 first-half points. In the second half, the Pistons positioned themselves in anticipation of screens such that they got the switches they wanted and when that didn’t work, they switched in the paint after the screen to offset mismatches.
Still, Gobert ended the game with 24 points, 14 rebounds, and 3 blocks and had a huge impact throughout the contest.
After a disappointing game against the Sacramento Kings, Cade Cunningham was sublime in the first half. He scored 17 points of his game-high 25 while getting to pretty much wherever he wanted. When Utah was in drop coverage, he took the mid-range jumper. When they were more aggressive, he drove further to the rim and created looks for himself or his teammates.
Shots didn’t fall for Cade in the second half, but he created and attempted good looks for the most part. And he worked extremely hard defensively and on the boards. Cunningham ended the game with two steals and three blocks which doesn’t even begin to measure his defensive impact. He did a nice job staying in front of his counterparts and was his usual cerebral self off the ball, assisting his teammates with dribble penetration.
Cade also grabbed six rebounds but, more than that, he showed a ton of effort in helping box out Gobert when Detroit’s defense wasn’t set off missed shots. Heavy legs probably led to a lot of second-half misses, but his fatigue certainly didn’t affect his effort level.
The rest of the Pistons roster struggled to create against a much more engaged Jazz defense than Detroit saw 11 days previously. Utah was aggressive in disrupting perimeter ball handlers and it was effective against pretty much everyone but Cunningham.
Saddiq Bey found success in the third quarter coming off down screens which took some pressure off Cade. That kept Detroit in the game in the third quarter where Cunningham played well but couldn’t get shots to fall.
If Detroit is going to do enough offensively, though, they need to provide Cade a lot more help through whatever means so his legs are a bit more fresh at the end of close games.
- Rodney McGruder continues to come off the bench and contribute whenever called upon. Could he be working his way into being a minor trade chip ahead of the deadline? He brings a nice, calming presence that you don’t typically find deep on the bench.
- Kelly Olynyk looked a bit out of sorts, but you can see the value he brings in spacing the floor. He also just understands where the ball should go based on how the defense is playing at a higher level than most on the Pistons.
- Eric Paschall has never committed a foul. Just ask him.