'He's a huge load': Jazz's Mitchell scores 28 to end Pistons' western swing on sour note
Salt Lake City — Donovan Mitchell continues to haunt the Pistons.
He had an offensive explosion in the matchup on Jan. 5 as the Jazz overcame an 18-point first-half deficit to get the win over the Pistons.
Mitchell had a reprise, scoring seven of his 28 points down the stretch, helping the Jazz take a 100-94 victory over the Pistons on Monday night at Vivint Smart Home Arena. The Pistons finished their four-game western trip with a 1-3 record, with Saturday’s win over the Clippers.
They had another solid showing against the Jazz (24-21) in the first half, leading by six at halftime, with a boost from Ish Smith, who returned from a torn right adductor and played for the first time since Dec. 5.
“We’re going to be good this year — I’m telling you. You can mark it down right now,” said Smith, who had eight points and two assists in 19 minutes. “We’re going to fight, we’re going to push and we’re going to press and we’re going to be exactly where we want to be at the end of the year.”
Blake Griffin had 19 points, Andre Drummond 15 points and 13 rebounds and Reggie Bullock 13 points for the Pistons (18-24), who face the Orlando Magic in an important matchup for conference position on Wednesday at Little Caesars Arena.
The Pistons were within 88-85 with 3:56 remaining, and they looked to pull within one after rookie Khyri Thomas drove and dished to Drummond for a dunk but officials reviewed the play and determined that Drummond’s attempt came after the shot clock expired. Mitchell was fouled on the next trip down and hit both free throws.
Just before that, Jazz center Rudy Gobert looked to have made contact with Thomas but there was no call and officials didn’t review it for a potential flagrant foul. It was indicative of the way fouls were called in the game, as the Jazz had a 36-16 advantage on free-throw attempts.
"It’s tough to beat somebody when they shoot 36 and we shoot 16,” coach Dwane Casey said. “I have to go back and look, but we had a couple charges and a young man getting attended to who was defenseless in the air and Gobert pushes him and knocks him down and they can’t review it.”
Griffin responded with a four-point play at the 1:28 mark, pulling the Pistons within 90-89, but the Jazz put it away with two free throws by Joe Ingles (13 points), a three-point play by Mitchell and Ingles added another 3-pointer for a 98-91 margin with 23.7 seconds left.
Gobert was dominant, with 18 points and tied his career high with 25 rebounds.
“He’s a huge load for anybody. He’s long and we held them to 38 percent, so we did a decent job and we got outrebounded,” Casey said. “He’s a force down there and they caught us in a rotation and had to get the ball out of Donovan Mitchell’s hands so that caused us to be out of position defensively on the rebounds. He’s a load for anybody.”
Near the end of the third quarter, the Pistons had a 74-72 lead after a 5-0 spurt, with a bank shot by Smith and a dunk by Drummond off a feed by Griffin. On the next trip, Drummond split a pair of free throws. The Jazz answered with a 3-pointer by Kyle Korver (19 points) with seven seconds left to take a one-point lead into the fourth.
The Pistons opened with a 6-0 run, with a drive by Luke Kennard (10 points, five rebounds), a free throw by Jon Leuer and a 3-point play by Reggie Jackson (11 points).
►1. With Smith back for his first game in more than five weeks, the Pistons got a boost. In his seven first-half minutes, the Pistons had a 19-10 margin; when he returned for the last six-plus minutes in the third quarter, the Pistons lost a point, with a 9-8 Jazz spurt. He brought energy and penetrated into the paint, making the defense react; it was the boost the Pistons needed to maintain their lead.
►2. With Smith’s return, the bench provided some needed production, with 25 points in the first half, including five each by Smith and Langston Galloway. The second group contributed 31 points but had outpaced the Jazz bench for most of the game.
►3. The Pistons didn’t get the benefit of the whistle for most of the game. The Jazz marched to the free-throw line — with a 27-8 margin on free throws in the first three quarters. The Jazz took advantage, making 19 of those 28, while the Pistons managed just 7 of 8. The final tally was 36-16 on free-throw attempts.
►4. Thomas got the nod to guard Mitchell in the final minutes of the game, a nod to his defensive work. Bruce Brown had gotten a look also for most of the game but Casey is showing his belief in Thomas’ ability to handle more responsibility in more minutes in the crucial parts of games.
►5. The Pistons played well for most of the game, but when their defense went south in the third quarter, they couldn’t find baskets when they needed them. It’s a familiar refrain, but with Smith back, some of those issues could be lessening.