'Our starts are concerning': Pistons dig another early hole, fall to Jazz
Detroit — The Pistons never seem to be out of a game, even when they fall into a 20-point deficit. Time after time, they’ve found a way to claw their way back into games, even against some of top teams in the league.
Another 20-point deficit. Another comeback.
It’s hard to get out of the hole every time.
Against the Utah Jazz, the Pistons looked to be out of it, with miserable shooting and an inability to get stops when they needed them. The familiar formula led to another loss, 96-86, on Sunday afternoon at Little Caesars Arena.
Jerami Grant continued his tear in the first 10 games of the season, with 28 points, four rebounds and four assists, extending his streak of games with 20-plus points to nine. Saddiq Bey added 12 points and Blake Griffin had 10 points, six rebounds and five assists for the Pistons (2-8).
Late in the first quarter, the Jazz (6-4) used a 17-0 run to push their lead to 32-12 at the 2:08 mark and looked to be on their way to an easy win.
“Our starts are concerning. You spot them 9-0 and we lose a 10-point game. We have to really evaluate our starts or starting lineup or whatever it is, to give us some juice or the right chemistry to start the game,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “You can’t spot any team in this league nine or 10 points and expect to win. You use so much energy trying to come back and you can’t do that on a nightly basis.”
Grant started a 7-2 spurt with three free throws and Jahlil Okafor added a pair of baskets to finish the quarter with a 34-19 deficit. The Pistons shot below 40% from the field for most of the game and trailed, 57-40, at halftime, though Grant had 15 points at the break.
“We fought hard to come back," Bey said. "We just have to start off a little bit better and play the best we can all four quarters."
The Pistons started a rally, with Grant hitting a 3-pointer and Delon Wright (six points, five rebounds) adding a jumper. Grant scored 11 of their 28 points in the third quarter, including a jumper that kick-started an 8-0 spurt to finish the quarter and trimmed the Jazz lead to 74-68 entering the fourth.
Donovan Mitchell (28 points) kept the Jazz in control, with a 3-pointer that pushed the lead back to double digits with 6:57 left, before Mike Conley (22 points, six assists and five rebounds) and Jordan Clarkson helped keep the rally at bay.
The Pistons got within 91-86 with just under two minutes remaining after a 3-pointer from Wayne Ellington. Conley, Mitchell and Rudy Gobert (four points, 19 rebounds) combined to shoot 5-for-6 on free throws down the stretch and the Pistons didn’t score again.
“We have to be consistent. One night (the problem) is our offense and one night it’s our defense,” Casey said. “After the first quarter, our defense was as solid as it’s been. You hold a team like that to 62 points and 42% (on field goals). We have to get some balance and chemistry and togetherness.”
The Pistons didn’t shoot well, hitting only 33% from the field and just 24% (10-for-42) from 3-point range. Grant (3-for-6) and Bey (2-for-6) combined for half of those made 3-pointers.
Without Derrick Rose (left knee soreness), the Pistons were missing their main offensive creator on the second unit, and it showed in their struggles to find scoring in that group. Some of it was just misses, such as Ellington going 2-for-7 and Svi Mykhailiuk 1-for-9, but the Pistons couldn’t get scores when they needed them to make it a closer game late.