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

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Omari Sankofa II, Detroit Free Press
·4 min read
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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.

Pistons forward Jerami Grant scores against Jazz center Derrick Favors during the second period at Little Caesars Arena on Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021.
Pistons forward Jerami Grant scores against Jazz center Derrick Favors during the second period at Little Caesars Arena on Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021.

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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. Other than the season opener, he’s reached the 20-point threshold in every game this season.

Pistons guard Wayne Ellington defends against Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell during the first period at Little Caesars Arena on Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021.
Pistons guard Wayne Ellington defends against Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell during the first period at Little Caesars Arena on Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021.

Continued strides from Frank Jackson

Frank Jackson has only been with the Pistons for two weeks. The organization announced that it signed him to a two-way contract on Dec. 27. Injuries have opened the door for the third-year guard to enter the rotation, and he’s making the most of his opportunity.

After making his debut with the Pistons on Friday and impressing Dwane Casey, Jackson had an even larger role on Sunday with both Killian Hayes and Derrick Rose 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, 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 on 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 the night with 12 minutes played. He wasn’t quite as effective in his second stint, airballing a stepback 3-pointer at one point as the clock winded down. But considering the Pistons trailed by 20 points toward the end of the first quarter, his energy helped Detroit stay in the game after a cold start.

Pistons 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 than they did, and it’s been 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 their 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 amidst a sloppy start to the game. They managed to clamp 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.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Pistons can't complete comeback, lose to Utah Jazz, 96-86

OddsMoney LinePoint SpreadTotal Points
Detroit
+115+2.5O 213.5
Cleveland
-139-2.5U 213.5