Jazz Give Pistons the Blues

Detroit loses 9th straight as Utah as Jazz heat up from 3

TEAM COLORS

The story of the game in Pistons red, white and blue

– Lawrence Frank wants Rodney Stuckey to attack, attack again and then attack some more. Stuckey’s thriving with that mentality and he punished Utah in the paint Monday night, scoring 29 points to give the Pistons a great shot at snapping their losing skid against the Jazz. It just wasn’t quite enough. Utah outscored the Pistons 18-3 in the last five minutes for a 105-90 win that didn’t begin to tell the story of how tightly contested this one really was. Ultimately, it was just another loss at Utah - the ninth straight time the Pistons have lost here to the Jazz. Stuckey hit 10 of 17 shots and 9 of 11 free throws, adding seven assists and four rebounds. Nobody led by more than three points from 10:03 of the third quarter until 2:32 remained in the game. Stuckey kept the Pistons in the game in a first half in which Utah scored 52 points and shot 60 percent by scoring 17 points, the vast majority in the paint off dribble penetration.

BLUE COLLAR – Back-to-the-basket scorers are increasingly rare, but Al Jefferson remains a throwback center. On a day that began with Jefferson’s availability uncertain due to a death in the family, he not only started and logged 37 minutes but hurt the Pistons with his scoring, and not just in the paint but with an improved mid-range shot, as well. Jefferson finished with 33 points as the Jazz dominated in the paint in the first half, when they scored 30 points there.

RED FLAG – Lawrence Frank said the critical elements necessary to win on the road are defense, rebounding and keeping turnovers to a minimum. The Pistons allowed Utah to shoot 60 percent in the first half and 54 for the game, a number that makes it tough to win anywhere, never mind a place the Pistons have had precious little success over the past decade. The Pistons kept their turnovers reasonably under control, finishing with 14, but they committed 10 in the first half. Leaky defense and turnovers meant the 48 points they scored – which should have been enough to give them the lead – saw them trailing by four at the break.

SALT LAKE CITY – The Pistons have lost in all manner of ways during their nine-game losing streak at Utah that dates to November 2002. Add another to the list. The Jazz, last in the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage, made seven in the second half alone Monday night and more than doubled their accuracy rate in doing so.

That wasn’t the only reason Utah posted the 105-90 win, but it was a big one and the typical expect-the-unexpected element the Pistons have fallen victim to too many times dating back to the Stockton-Malone days.

“Just one of those places,” said Ben Wallace, who was there for the last Pistons win. “It’s just tough to play here. No matter who they put on the floor, once they step in this building they become gritty and grimy. Whoever puts that Utah uniform on, it doesn’t matter what they did before.”

The game, a rocky way to open a five-game road trip after a hot home stretch, wasn’t nearly as lopsided as the 15-point margin. From early in the second half to under three minutes left in the game, neither side led by more than three points. But Lawrence Frank was never really comfortable – mostly because the Pistons, for as well as they played offensively in long stretches, never could figure Utah out on the other end.

“First half, they shoot 60 percent,” he said. “I don’t think we ever got ’em under 50. We were trading buckets for a little but, but I don’t think we ever got a handle on them defensively. Whether it’s home or road, but especially road, we have to be able to get stops and we were unable to do it.”

Some of the biggest Utah buckets were the triples. The Jazz were shooting a shade under 30 percent for the season, but hit 7 of 11, including some daggers with the shot clock running down. Devin Harris hit two, both very late in the clock, and C.J. Miles three.

“We wanted to live with no paint – that was the theme,” Frank said. “They were the worst 3-point shooting team in the league. Some of ’em were tough shots. Could we have done better? You always could do better, but we wanted to make it a no-paint game. But these are NBA players. You have to contest shots.”

Each side had one bludgeoning weapon: Al Jefferson scored 33 with 12 boards for the Jazz after missing the morning shootaround when he learned of his grandmother’s death; Rodney Stuckey countered with 29 points, seven assists and four boards for the Pistons.

“Rodney played great,” Frank said. “Rodney was terrific.”

He was less enthused about his pick-and-roll defense and that – more than Jefferson hammering the Pistons on the low block – accounted for much of Jefferson’s scoring.

“Our pick-and-roll defense let us down,” he said. “Al Jefferson had (33), but he only had six points on true post-ups. We had a hard time with our protection behind our pick-and-roll defense.”

The final insult came in the waning seconds when Jefferson launched a 3-pointer to avoid a 24-second violation and drained it – the first successful triple of his NBA career. Of course, it came against the Pistons at Utah.

“They turned it up in the last two minutes,” said Greg Monroe, who gave the Pistons 14 points, five boards, five assists and two third-quarter steals that led to layups. “They hit some tough shots at the end of the shot clock. We just weren’t executing on the offensive end coming down the stretch. Tonight definitely didn’t out how we wanted it to. We have to go watch some tape, see what we did wrong, but we have a lot more games left on this road trip.”

“They hit some tough shots against the shot clock and with a hand in their face,” Wallace said. “You’ve got to tip your hat to a guy who knocks those down, but those shots won it. They made shots. They made plays, where we didn’t.”