Pistons 'can't stop anybody,' Jazz cruise
Salt Lake City — Stan Van Gundy had seen enough. With the Pistons’ mounting injuries and continuing defensive troubles, he decided to mix things up a little bit.
Missing two of his starters — Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (shoulder strain) and Jon Leuer (knee bruise) — Van Gundy shook up the playing rotation to try to bring some energy and get out of the two-game losing streak.
It didn’t change the outcome.
The Pistons had another horrific third quarter on defense — allowing 33 points — and the Utah Jazz turned a close game into a 110-77 blowout on Friday night at Vivint Smart Home Arena. It’s the third straight loss for the Pistons (18-24), who are 1-3 on their western road trip and finish the five-game set on Sunday against the Los Angeles Lakers.
With a shortened bench, Van Gundy moved Aron Baynes to the starting lineup and used Beno Udrih at point guard, ahead of Ish Smith. Reggie Bullock, who recovered from a meniscus tear, returned to the lineup for his first game since Nov. 23, and posted a season-high seven points in 26 minutes.
Tobias Harris had 13 points, Marcus Morris 11 and Andre Drummond nine points and 19 rebounds.
But the issue was more the lack of defense than the offense. Much as with Thursday’s loss to the Golden State Warriors, the Pistons were within one possession at halftime but didn’t put up much resistance after halftime and the lead ballooned to double digits.
“We can’t stop anybody; we just can’t. For the first 21 games, we were the second-best defensive team in the league and now we’re the worst,” Van Gundy said in a terse postgame session. “I’m frustrated — not with our players; I’m frustrated with myself that I can’t figure this out.
“We literally can’t stop anyone, ever. We’re just not stopping anybody.”
The Pistons held the Jazz to 14 points in the first quarter but then relented 31, 33 and 32 points in the final three periods, respectively.
Reggie Jackson hit a 3-pointer with 0.8 seconds left in the second quarter to pull the Pistons within 45-43 at halftime. Harris hit a jumper to open the third period to tie it, but the Jazz (25-16) scored the next five points, including a jumper by Derrick Favors, a free throw by George Hill and a drive by Gordon Hayward (20 points) Drummond ended the run with a hook but Rudy Gobert added a lay-in and Hayward followed with a 3-pointer for an 11-2 run and a 55-47 lead. The Jazz got a loose ball and Hill (22 points, 5-of-6 beyond the arc) converted a 3-pointer, followed by another 3-pointer just over a minute later, to make it 64-51.
The Pistons continued their struggles with trying to stop teams from beyond the arc, as the Jazz went 16-of-31 (52 percent), including 7-of-8 by Rodney Hood, who had a season-high 27 points. The Jazz starting backcourt of Hood and Hill combined for 49 points, with 12-of-14 on 3-pointers.
“We’ve got to defend. We’ve got to make someone miss,” Jackson said. “I don’t know what it is. We’ll do it for about a total of half of a game, whether it be the first, third or middle of the first, middle of the third, half the fourth.
“We’re just not playing together for 48 (minutes). It’s really coming back to bite us each and every night.”
Joe Johnson ended the third quarter with a 60-foot desperation heave that made it 78-63. Hood put the game away early in the fourth, with back-to-back 3-pointers, igniting a 14-5 run that helped push the lead to 92-70 at the 8:37 mark of the final period.