Like last week’s game in Detroit, Monday night’s Jazz game vs. the Pistons featured a perplexingly slow start, an inability to contain Reggie Bullock early, a second-half turnaround, and some down-to-the-wire dramatics.
Unlike that game, though, this one did not include some random dude goading Donovan Mitchell into a transcendent performance with some ill-conceived trash talk.
Someone flying that guy into SLC and buying him a ticket to Vivint Smart Home Arena would have made things easier. Instead, the Jazz had to overcome their defensive miscues and offensive inadequacies all the way through, ultimately clawing and scratching their way to a 100-94 victory.
“We’re just finding ways to scrap together wins right now,” said Kyle Korver. “They’re not overly pretty, but we’re finding ways to win. That’s what good teams do.”
The win capped the Jazz’s homestand at a perfect 4-0 and improved the team to 24-21 for the season.
Mitchell overcame a rare-of-late poor shooting night to still lead the way with 28 points — including a huge three-point play in the final minute — while Rudy Gobert added 18 points and a career-high-tying 25 rebounds, and Korver contributed 19 points off the bench.
With neither team terribly efficient on the offensive end — the Jazz shot just 38.8 percent for the game, while the Pistons were a tick better at 38.9 — they were battling back-and-forth down the stretch.
Perhaps the key sequence of the game began with just over a minute to go.
Joe Ingles hit a pair of free throws to expand Utah’s narrow advantage to 93-90. Detroit, on its ensuing possession, gave the ball to star forward Blake Griffin along the sideline, but as he eyed a potential corner 3, he was called for stepping out of bounds with 1:03 to play.
Mitchell then held the ball atop the key, put on a spectacular hesitation move to earn some space, drove the lane, somehow flipped the ball in, and drew the foul for a crucial and-one, plus a 95-89 lead with 48.9 seconds remaining.
“This is the persistence you have to have if you’re not having a good shooting night,” said coach Quin Snyder. “You have to defend, and we did that in the second half. Usually if you’re doing that, and you’re grinding, you’re kind of earning the right to make a shot.”
Indeed, after allowing 59 first-half points, Utah limited Detroit to just 35 after the break.
Korver credited the men in the suits with implementing the changes that ultimately swung the result.
“The coaching staff does a great job of showing us where we were maybe lacking a little bit in the first half. Quin really got on us — we barely got out there to shoot before the second half started, he was going through so much film and showing us so many things,” he said. “We made the adjustments we needed to, and then we just kept on grinding.”
Even after that Mitchell shot, it wasn’t over quite yet. Andre Drummond earned a trip to the line just six seconds later and calmly sank both free throws, putting the pressure on the Jazz to make one more play.
Which they did.
Jae Crowder — despite an abysmal night that included going 0 for 6 from the floor, scoring just two points, and committing four turnovers — found a way to impact the outcome when, after getting the ball on the 3-point line, sucked in the defense, passed up his own shot, and kicked it to Ingles in the corner, who sank the basket, and the Pistons’ hopes.
“Jae made the extra pass to Joe in the corner for that one that kinda was a dagger,” Snyder said. “Jae didn’t shoot well, but he didn’t let it impact his defense. He fought like crazy.”
That, he reiterated, can get this team by. There will be plenty of nights when the offense doesn’t look pretty — especially when three point guards remain simultaneously injured — so if these players continue to defend, they ought to give themselves a chance.
“We trusted each other a lot more defensively,” Snyder said. “If you throw yourself into the game, usually something good happens.”
JAZZ 100, PISTONS 94
• Donovan Mitchell scores 28 points, and Rudy Gobert adds 18 points and 25 rebounds.
• The Jazz complete their homestand 4-0 and improve to 24-21 this season.
• Utah hits 12 shots from deep — setting a new franchise record with 10 straight home games of 10-plus 3-pointers made.