Familiar tune: Pistons 'plagued' by third quarter again, fall to Jazz
Salt Lake City — The Pistons played one of their best defensive first halves of the season.
Then came the third quarter.
The Pistons’ weakness for most of the season came through to bite them again, as they had a halftime lead but gave up a 16-2 run in the first six minutes after halftime and trailed the rest of the way.
The Utah Jazz took advantage of the spurt and used Donovan Mitchell’s 23 points to stroll to a 104-81 victory on Monday night at Vivint Smart Home Arena. It’s the second straight loss on the six-game western trip and seventh in the last eight games overall for the Pistons (12-22).
Derrick Rose had 20 points and four assists, Andre Drummond added 15 points and 13 rebounds and Svi Mykhailiuk scored 13.
“Of course, the third quarter plagued us," Rose said, "but I guess we’ve got to learn from it one day.”
The Pistons set a new season low in points and fell to a season-worst 10 games below .500.
The defense in the first half was spectacular, switching and holding the Jazz to just 39 points, the lowest total the Pistons have allowed this season.
“I thought we were on point with our zone. We communicated; we had a sense of urgency and we cared in the first half,” coach Dwane Casey said. “In the second half, for whatever reason, we did not do that. I take the blame for that as a coach because I’ve got to do something and have to stand on my head or throw a chair or whatever to get us going in the second half.”
The Pistons had their biggest lead, 38-31, after Bruce Brown (eight points and eight rebounds) hit a pair of free throws and Tim Frazier added a drive. The Jazz (21-12) answered with an 8-2 spurt to finish the period, with an alley-oop from Mitchell to Rudy Gobert (13 points and 19 rebounds). Mitchell added two free throws and a spectacular dunk and Bojan Bogdanovic (17 points) added two free throws to cut the Pistons' lead to 40-39 at halftime.
The Jazz managed just 33 percent on field goals and 18 percent on 3-pointers but exploded in the third with six straight points from Mitchell, a 3-pointer from Royce O’Neale, a putback dunk by Gobert, and a floater and 3-pointer from Joe Ingles (10 points).
The Pistons had a small 8-2 spurt to get within 57-50, but Jordan Clarkson (20 points) answered with a 3-pointer and Emmanuel Mudiay a drive to extend the lead.
The Jazz allowed the Pistons just 14 3-point attempts, a season low. The Pistons made just four, including three by Mykhailiuk. With fewer shots available on the perimeter, the Pistons tried to get in the paint, with Gobert, one of the top defenders in the league, patrolling the paint.
“That was part of the strategy. There's other options in that and we executed in the first half and then we lost some in the second half,” Casey said. “So, again, against good teams, you’ve got to be consistent with your focus, and I'm not going to say effort — it’s focus as much as anything else.
“The sense of urgency, the speed at which you do things has to be there, especially when a good team turns up their energy defensively.”
Here are more observations from Monday's game:
►Drummond went aggressively at Gobert through most of the first half. He struggled to get those shots to fall, going 5-of-16 from the field, but against the favorite for defensive player of the year, it was a gutsy strategy. In addition to Drummond, there were other Pistons, such as Mykhailiuk and Frazier, who drove and got some shots up against the 7-foot-1 center.
►Blake Griffin missed the game because of knee soreness and rookie Sekou Doumbouya, who made the trip to Salt Lake City, didn’t play because of an illness. He was listed as questionable and could see more playing time in the Clippers game on Thursday or the Warriors game on Saturday.
►Casey went with a small lineup to start, with Griffin out and seeking to have Brown defend Mitchell. The ploy seemed to work, with Frazier, Tony Snell, Mykhailiuk and Drummond in the starting group. With their switching and inserting some zone defenses, they were effective.
►Christian Wood had some good minutes in the second half, getting on the boards and showing his offensive versatility. At the end of the third quarter, he was fouled and hit two free throws, hit a mid-range jumper and scored on a drive for six straight points in the final 1:41. He’s showing a knack for getting to his spots and doing well against a formidable Jazz frontline.
►Clarkson, who was acquired in a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers, looked very comfortable in his second home game since the deal. He finished 7-of-13 from the field, including four 3-pointers. With Dante Exum’s inconsistent play, it looks like the Jazz are getting the bigger benefit from making that trade.