(Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

Pistons give it a run, but can’t get over hump at Utah


Three quick observations from Friday night’s 111-101 loss to the Utah Jazz at Vivint Arena

HOUSE OF HORRORS – The Utah Jazz have never won an NBA title, but no franchise has had the type of success against the Pistons that Utah has had – not the Lakers, not the Celtics, not the Bulls, nobody. Since moving from New Orleans to Utah in 1974, the Pistons took an astounding 6-35 record at Salt Lake City into Friday’s game, the third of a four-game road trip that included Wednesday’s 133-131 win at Sacramento.

The Pistons were tied at 74 with less than five minutes left in the third quarter when Utah went on an 11-1 run to open a 10-point lead, matching its biggest of the game. The Pistons cut that deficit in half in the last few minutes of the quarter and were within a point at the midway mark of the fourth quarter. They nearly pulled within a point again with 1:22 to play when Saddiq Bey missed a wide-open corner three. Utah followed with a Mike Conley layup for a five-point lead with a minute to play and the Jazz held on. The last Pistons win in Utah came in 2016. The Pistons are now 6-6 in January. Utah, the runaway No. 1 offensive team in the league, played without leading scorer Donovan Mitchell but got 24 points and 13 rebounds from Rudy Gobert and 23 points from Bogdan Bogdanovic. 

ROOKIE REPORT – Cade Cunningham was at the center of the Pistons comeback win over Utah from 22 points down – tied for the second-biggest deficit overcome by a Pistons team since the 1996-97 season – earlier this month when he scored a career-high 29 points while adding eight assists. Cunningham had another high-end performance in his first NBA appearance in Salt Lake City, finishing with 25 points, six rebounds, five assists, two steals and three blocked shots. Cunningham got rolling early, scoring 11 points in the first quarter on 5 of 6 shooting. After sitting out the first four minutes of the second quarter, Cunningham came back with six more points before halftime to get to 17 points. He didn’t score at the same clip in the third quarter, scoring two points, as Utah prioritized getting the ball out of his hands, but Cunningham had several terrific passes in the quarter that didn’t yield assists when the shots he set up wound up as misses. Dwane Casey got Cunningham out with a little more than two minutes left in the third quarter and brought him back to start the fourth quarter. The final numbers, as good as they were, were close to being even more dynamic as Cunningham created a handful of good shots for himself inside the 3-point arc in the fourth quarter but had some tough bounces at the rim. 

BACKCOURT SCOREBOARD – The Pistons added Cassius Stanley by signing him to a third 10-day emergency contract and it’s becoming clear the Pistons are high on Stanley. Dwane Casey has lauded Stanley and trusted him with rotation minutes in some key spots over his first two 10-day deals. Typically, teams are limited to signing a player to only two 10-day contracts but if they’re added due to a COVID-19 absence, that stipulation is waived. The Pistons currently have two players in health and safety protocols, Jerami Grant and Luka Garza. The backcourt was missing two rotation mainstays at Utah as Killian Hayes missed his second straight game after suffering a right hip contusion in Tuesday’s game at Golden State and Frank Jackson remains out. Jackson last played Dec. 29, spraining his ankle that night before entering health and safety protocols. He remains listed as “return to competition reconditioning.” Cory Joseph took Hayes’ spot in the starting backcourt alongside Cade Cunningham while the bench backcourt consisted of Saben Lee and Rodney McGruder. McGruder made his third appearance since being returned to the Pistons via the rescinded trade for Bol Bol and again gave the Pistons efficient scoring punch, hitting 5 of 7 from the 3-point arc in a 15-point outing. Saben Lee didn’t play in the second half after logging seven first-half minutes without scoring.