Utah made Wednesday night's win look effortless at times. There were three lead changes in the game, all in the opening minutes of the first quarter. The Jazz eventually led by as many as 23 points, and allowed only 35 points to the Pistons in the first half.
Meanwhile, the Jazz were a running highlight before halftime. There was Rudy Gobert passing the ball between his legs to a cutting Gordon Hayward for a layup. There was Joe Ingles on the fast break, tossing a pass over his shoulders to Dante Exum for a dunk. The Jazz' passing made the game look artful at times. With Johnson starting in place of an injured Derrick Favors, the spacing on the floor was too much for Detroit to handle.
"I thought their ball movement was outstanding in the first half," Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. "I'll give Utah a lot of credit. They're really good, and I thought their defense was very intense and good."
Even without Rodney Hood in the second half — he left the game at halftime due to knee soreness — the Jazz had more than enough offensively to dominate.
Hayward scored 25 points, grabbed nine rebounds and handed out six assists. George Hill scored 17 points. Gobert, Johnson and Ingles scored 12 each, while Gobert supplemented that total with nine rebounds, a season-high five assists and four blocked shots.
Whenever the Jazz needed a big shot, someone stepped up and supplied it. If the Jazz needed defensive stops, they were able to get it.
"We just tried to communicate defensively," Gobert said. "First of all, we got on the ball and kept our man in front of us. They were very good at getting defensive rebounds, especially their big men. So we made sure that we boxed out. We did a great job in this game of getting the balls and pushing offensively."
Van Gundy subbed almost maniacally, playing different lineups in order to find something that worked. When starting point guard Reggie Jackson shot an airball in the opening minute of the third quarter, in came backup Ish Smith. When Kentavious Caldwell-Pope struggled with his shot in the first half, Stanley Johnson started the second half in his place. When star center Andre Drummond stopped playing hard, Van Gundy sat him down after 20 minutes. The Jazz were that frustrating for the Pistons.
"The other guys were playing better," Van Gundy said. "That's why I went away from them. Some other guys played a lot better and with a lot more energy."
The Jazz' quest for home-court advantage in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs continues. They move to 43-25 on the season, and have won six of their past seven games. The Jazz finished with 28 assists contrasted with 15 turnovers on Wednesday, and won the rebounding margin 43-39.
"We were very fundamentally sound tonight," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "We played good defense. I don't give that out very easy, but we executed and guys were doing things for each other instinctively."