Lethargic Pistons fall to Utah Jazz, 97-83

Mar 15, 2017; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Ish Smith (14) drives to the basket during the fourth quarter as Utah Jazz guard Dante Exum (11) defends at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 15, 2017; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Ish Smith (14) drives to the basket during the fourth quarter as Utah Jazz guard Dante Exum (11) defends at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports /

One night after getting destroyed by the defending champs, the Detroit Pistons (33-35) were blown out of their own building by the Utah Jazz (43-25).

It was a disappointing performance from the Detroit Pistons, but it wasn’t exactly unpredictable.

Detroit looked every bit like a team playing the second game of a brutal back-to-back against one of the league’s best defensive teams on Wednesday. After flying back from Cleveland last night, the Pistons came out looking lethargic from the opening tip against the Utah Jazz. They were slow to rotate defensively, allowing Utah to hit 13 3-pointers, many of them coming early and on wide-open looks. The Pistons also struggled to find their offense against a team that ranks first in the league in points allowed and third in defensive rating.

Jon Leuer returned to the starting lineup after coming off the bench the last three games, but he and the other four starters looked dead on arrival. The Pistons fell behind 28-19 in the first quarter, and the deficit remained around ten for most of the second quarter.

The starting lineup of Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris, Leuer and Andre Drummond finished with a -54.7 net rating in eight minutes.

Detroit was down by 17 points at the half and didn’t do much to reduce that deficit after the break. The Pistons outscored the Jazz 27-23 in the third quarter and entered the fourth quarter down 77-62.

Ish Smith led a Pistons run to cut the deficit to 12 with 6:08 remaining, as Stan Van Gundy finally found a lineup that showed some heart in Smith/Reggie Bullock/Tobias Harris/Leuer/Aron Baynes. Boban Marjanovic spelled Baynes and helped the Detroit cut the lead to only nine, but the Jazz easily answered the surge with a George Hill jumper, Rudy Gobert block and Gordon Hayward 3-pointer.

The Pistons came charging back again with a lineup of Smith, Caldwell-Pope, Morris, Harris and Baynes, cutting the lead to 89-78 on a Caldwell-Pope trey with 4:22 remaining. But the comeback came too late, as the Jazz remained unrattled. Hayward buried the Pistons with a pair of 3-pointers and free throws to seal the win.

For the second straight game, the Pistons were outscored by 14-plus points. The Jazz shot 47 percent from the field and 46 percent from the 3-point line while the Pistons shot only 42 percent from the field (36 percent in the first half) and 23 percent from beyond the arc.

Detroit lost the rebound battle, 43-39. The Jazz also put on a passing clinic, finishing with 28 assists while forcing the Pistons (14 assists) into tough one-on-one buckets late in the shot clock. Utah pressed Detroit on the perimeter but was able to recover well enough to challenge shots in the paint, making it tough for the Pistons to manufacture points all game long.

Six Jazz players finished with three or more assists. Smith was the only Piston to reach that mark.

Gobert, who leads the NBA with 2.47 blocks per game, was dominant on both ends of the floor, finishing with 12 points, nine rebounds, five assists and four blocks. Hayward also shredded the Pistons for 25 points.

Detroit’s three leading scorers were bench players. Smith had 16, while Harris and Baynes both had 12. Caldwell-Pope (10 points) was the only Pistons starter in double figures.

The crowd was sparse at the Palace of Auburn Hills, but the boo birds came out in full flock, vocalizing their displeasure with the Pistons’ lifeless play.

With the loss, and a Miami Heat win, the Pistons fall into a three-way tie with Miami and the Milwaukee Bucks for the seventh/eighth seed in the eastern conference. With current tiebreakers, the Pistons still sit at No. 7. All three teams are two games behind the sixth-seeded Indiana Pacers.

The Pistons fall to 3-10 on the second game of back-to-backs this season.

Detroit hosts the Toronto Raptors on Friday.

REGGIE JACKSON. D. On a night where it was tough to manufacture good scoring opportunities, Reggie Jackson helped the Pistons offense tread water early with his floaters and runners in the paint, just outside of Gobert’s grasp. But those four early buckets were the only bright spots for Jackson. Stan Van Gundy yanked him early in the third quarter after he badly airballed a 3-pointer, and he never returned. Jackson was a team-worst -19.. PG. Detroit Pistons

C+. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had some good looks in the first half, but missed a couple of awkward finger rolls from no-man’s land. He helped lead a comeback attempt with a pair of three-pointers late in the fourth quarter, but was otherwise unimpressive.. SG. Detroit Pistons. KENTAVIOUS CALDWELL-POPE

SF. Detroit Pistons. MARCUS MORRIS. C. Marcus Morris finished with eight points on a cringeworthy 3-for-15 shooting. He left the game in the second half with an apparent ankle injury.

C. Jon Leuer didn’t do much in this game to prove he deserves a spot in the starting lineup. He finished with seven points and five rebounds.. PF. Detroit Pistons. JON LEUER

C. Andre Drummond came alive in the second half with a couple of, um, let’s call them <em>difficult-to-replicate</em> bank shots over Gobert. But he was clearly outplayed not only by Gobert but by his own teammate Aron Baynes in this game. It was telling that Stan Van Gundy spelled Baynes with Boban Marjanovic instead of bringing Drummond back into this game.. C. Detroit Pistons. ANDRE DRUMMOND

B+. Ish Smith led the Pistons with a +5 in this game, and for once, plus/minus <em>does</em> tell the whole story. This game would have gotten even uglier without his late-game leadership, when he helped pull the Pistons within nine. Smith finished with 16 points and three assists.. PG. Detroit Pistons. ISH SMITH

C-. Reggie Bullock was also part of that late-game surge. He was a +5, contributing just three rebounds and an assist.. SG/SF. Detroit Pistons. REGGIE BULLOCK

This wasn’t Stanley Johnson’s best night. He scored just two points and drew the ire of Stan Van Gundy on a late-game sequence when he held Jazz forward Gordon Hayward on two consecutive possessions before allowing Hayward an easy basket on the third.. SF. Detroit Pistons. STANLEY JOHNSON. C-

PF. Detroit Pistons. TOBIAS HARRIS. B-. Tobias Harris was Detroit’s best offensive player until Smith’s late-game explosion. He finished with 12 points on an efficient 5-for-8 shooting. He also added four rebounds, two assists and a steal.

ARON BAYNES. B+. This might have been one of Aron Baynes’ best performances of the season. He was tough and active on both ends of the floor, finishing with 12 points and 12 rebounds in 23 minutes. There was a point late in this game where Baynes was the Pistons’ leading scorer. Great for Baynes, but for the Pistons, less so.. C. Detroit Pistons

C. Instead of going back to Andre Drummond, Stan Van Gundy spelled Aron Baynes with Boban Marjanovic in the fourth quarter. Boban was, per usual, pretty efficient. He scored one bucket, barely missed another, and added two rebounds, a block and a steal in five minutes.. C. Detroit Pistons. BOBAN MARJANOVIC

C-. Stan Van Gundy tinkered with lineups all night long in attempt to manufacture some energy. By the time he found one that showed some heart, the game was all but out of hand. I’ve got to dock him for starting Leuer over Harris–a decision that doesn’t make sense to me no matter how much I mull it over. There’s currently a debate in the Piston Powered group chat about whether to hold Van Gundy accountable for the Pistons’ inconsistent play. I’m not there yet, not completely, but no one, coach included, looked good in this back-to-back.. Head Coach. Detroit Pistons. STAN VAN GUNDY