Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy met the media Tuesday night following a 110-79 loss to the Jazz in Utah. Rod Beard, Detroit News
Salt Lake City — The season is starting to catch up with the Pistons.
And so are the injuries.
And so are the losses.
And there are only 15 games left to try to salvage anything from this season.
The Pistons’ defense was off-key early and they didn’t get their offense on track — and the Utah Jazz took advantage, shooting a scorching 81 percent from the field in the first quarter and 60 percent in the first half.
The Jazz built a 25-point halftime lead and coasted past the Pistons, 110-79, on Tuesday night at Vivant Smart Home Arena.
It’s an inauspicious start to the Pistons’ six-game western trip, with a matchup against the Denver Nuggets on Thursday.
“That game was over after one quarter. They came out, blitzed us, played great at both ends, hit a lot of threes, played well defensively, turned us over a lot and when we did get shots, we couldn’t make them,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “It was a great night for them and a really tough night for us.”
Luke Kennard had 18 points off the bench, Blake Griffin had 13 points and Andre Drummond added 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Pistons (30-37), who have lost 11 of their last 14 games but are 5.5 games behind the Miami Heat — who also lost Tuesday — for the final playoff spot in the East.
The Jazz (38-30) are rolling in the other direction, having won 19 of their last 21 games, dating back to their 98-95 overtime win over the Pistons at Little Caesars Arena on Jan. 24. Utah has been one of the hottest teams in the league — and kept it going.
The Jazz got hot in the first quarter and jetted out to an 11-3 lead in the first 3:36, with four points by Rudy Gobert (22 points and 12 rebounds) and five from Derrick Favors (12 points).
The Pistons pulled within 11-7 after back-to-back jumpers from Griffin, but never got any closer the rest of the way. Utah had a 17-6 run to finish the period, with a pair of 3-pointers from Jae Crowder (14 points).
“They just came out; this is always a tough place to play,” said guard Ish Smith, who had nine points. “They came out, hit us in the mouth and we could never recover — that was really the game. You have to kind of set your tone on them — and we didn’t. We were playing uphill all night.”
The reserves had a spark in the second quarter, with an opening 8-2 run, including four points from Kennard and a steal and dunk by Anthony Tolliver helped cut the lead to 44-29, but the Jazz answered with an 8-2 spurt and Drummond picked up his third foul, sending him to the bench for the rest of the half.
Kennard’s 18 points were two off his career high, but with extending minutes in the lopsided game, he tried to take advantage of the opportunity.
Pistons rookie Luke Kennard met the media Tuesday night following a 110-79 loss to the Jazz in Utah. Rod Beard, Detroit News
“I just want to be aggressive. That’s what the coaches want me to do; that’s what my teammates want me to do,” Kennard said. “That’s my mindset coming into every game: I just want to win.
“Hopefully, we can put together something down the stretch, but for myself, I’m going to continue to stay positive, stay aggressive and be myself.”
The Pistons managed just eight points in the final eight minutes and Joe Ingles (17 points, seven rebounds and seven assists) combined with Gobert for the final eight points of the half, putting the Pistons into a 64-39 halftime hole.
Smith scored the first eight points of the third but the Pistons never go the lead below 20 the rest of the way.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS FROM TUESDAY’S LOSS
■With Reggie Bullock recovering from his car accident on Sunday morning, the Pistons had to improvise in the starting lineup, utilizing both their small forwards, Stanley Johnson and James Ennis III. When the lead got to 25 heading into halftime, Van Gundy adjusted, tapping Kennard to start the third quarter, for more shooting.
■In that starting spot, Johnson did a good job guarding Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell, who had just three of his 13 points in the first half. Johnson had a decided size advantage and used it well, with his quickness and athleticism to help stay in front of Mitchell. After the rotation half to start the third, Mitchell was able to get going.
■Drummond had a good, energetic start to the first quarter, going toe-to-toe with Gobert, but after he got in foul trouble — and when