Utah Jazz extend Detroit Pistons’ losing streak to 25 games

The Jazz avoid the distinction of snapping the league’s longest active losing streak.

(Carlos Osorio | AP) Utah Jazz center Walker Kessler (24) blocks a shot by Detroit Pistons guard Jaden Ivey (23) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023, in Detroit.

Will Hardy knew the number, even if he didn’t say it aloud.

His players almost certainly did, too.


That’s how many games the Detroit Pistons had lost in a row when the Utah Jazz came to town. It’s an ignominious streak — two shy of the NBA’s all-time record — and a slide most players might even feel bad about, except when faced with possibly having the distinction of snapping it.

“I don’t think there’s any need for myself or our staff to over-talk about the losing streak,” Hardy said before the game. “That’s been talked about enough in the media, on social media. I think our players are well aware of that. They’re getting hit from a lot of different angles about this game in particular.”

The Jazz avoided hearing any more about it after a 119-111 win on Thursday evening.

Veteran Kelly Olynyk led the Jazz with 27 points on 10-16 shooting, which was a season high for the former Piston. Second-year wing Ochai Agbaji contributed 18 points.

It wasn’t an easy win, though. With 3:27 left in the game, the Jazz held just a 2-point lead, and the game looked well within Detroit’s reach. But at that point, everything changed — the Jazz worked their offense, got good looks, and critically, made the hustle plays to get extra shots.

The biggest came when point guard Kris Dunn went into the paint for an offensive rebound, and got his hand higher than the Pistons’ big men. He tapped the ball behind him to Olynyk for the game’s most important basket. The play represented the team-first approach the Jazz have been striving for.

“We knew tonight was gonna be a dogfight,” Dunn said. “Collectively, as a group, I thought we did a good job of making sure that we pulled the win out.”

Dunn, usually out of the Jazz’s healthy rotation, was inserted into the starting lineup with guards Talen Horton-Tucker and Keyonte George out due to injury. He added 13 points and 10 assists, while only committing one turnover.

Even before the game, Hardy gave credit to the Pistons.

“We respect everybody that we play,” he said. “I know when I look at their team, I see a lot of talented players. I see a good coach. When you at at things from a statistical standpoint, in their last five games they’re top 10 in points in the paint, top 10 in steals. They’ve got good players on their team.”

It’s a point Pistons’ lead guard Cade Cunningham agreed with. “We’re not 2-26 bad, no way,” he said — referencing the team’s record. But they’ll have to prove that they’re not one of the worst teams in NBA history by avoiding 26 straight losses with a matchup against the Nets on Saturday night.

The Jazz, meanwhile, were without leading scorers Lauri Markkanen and Jordan Clarkson. The team was shorthanded enough that backup guard Johnny Juzang was called to join the team on a last-minute flight out of the G League Salt Lake City Stars, currently playing in Orlando. He arrived just one hour before tipoff.

“It’s another one of those things similar to the losing streak questions: We don’t need to talk about it,” Hardy said of missing key pieces. “… We try to treat it as normal. I don’t think we want to have our players get used to overreacting to any circumstance that goes on with the team.”

But it was a close game throughout. After getting out to an 8-point deficit in the first quarter, the Jazz capitalized on the woeful Pistons’ mistakes to take a 13-point lead in the second.

The Pistons — knowing that the game represented a good chance to snap the streak — fought back, tying the game in the third and fourth quarters.

The Jazz, though, showed their poise in the final six minutes, fighting through fatigue to avoid what would have been a loss to forget.

“I think our biggest thing was that we put each other in positions to succeed, and that’s something we haven’t exactly done all year. So we’re trying to put a focus on that, and it’s been really good for us,” Olynyk said. “Obviously, that you hear about (their losing streak), it’s in the back of your head,” Olynyk said. “But for us, it was about playing our style of basketball, getting 1% better, and putting the right foot forward for ourselves.”

And, critically, showing that there are worse situations in the NBA.