The Utah Jazz hit a rough patch over the weekend during their five-game trip. They’ll wrap up the journey in Detroit on Monday night.
Utah began the trip with quality wins over New Orleans and Denver. The next two stops didn’t prove as fruitful, as the Jazz lost at Toronto 122-108 on Friday and at Indiana 125-113 on Saturday.
“That’s a winnable game for us,” Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell said. “We shot ourselves in the foot with too many things. We knew what we needed to do, but we weren’t there to do it.”
Mitchell did about as much as he could offensively, supplying 36 points and nine assists. He didn’t play the previous night due to a back injury.
Utah played without its defensive stalwart, center Rudy Gobert, who is in the league’s health and safety protocol. Forward Joe Ingles also is in protocol, but Mitchell didn’t want to use that as an excuse.
“If we want to be a championship team, we have to do it every night, and we didn’t do it (Saturday),” Mitchell said. “I know we didn’t have Joe and Rudy, but this was a winnable game for us.”
At Toronto, turnovers were a major factor as the Jazz committed 21 compared with nine by the Raptors. Toronto converted those giveaways into 28 points.
The Pacers got into an offensive rhythm from the start, scoring 33 first-quarter points. They shot 55 percent from the field for the game. Domantas Sabonis scored a career-best 42 points without Gobert to patrol the interior.
“They had a player in Sabonis that had a terrific night,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. “We tried to do a lot of different things against him. Around the basket, he was so efficient. … We were trying to come help and obviously had difficulty handling him down low.”
The Jazz will reach the midpoint of the season on Monday. Their 28-12 record is third-best in the Western Conference behind Phoenix and Golden State.
Detroit is headed toward the lottery again. The Pistons have the league’s second-worst record, though they recorded their eighth win on Saturday. The 97-92 triumph came at the expense of the team behind them in the standings, the Orlando Magic.
The Pistons were blown out in their previous two outings at Charlotte and Memphis.
“They have to grow. That’s where we are,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “I was proud of the way our guys came in (Saturday) and competed and closed it out.”
Detroit held onto a slim lead over the Magic in the closing minutes. The game wasn’t decided until Orlando missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer and Cory Joseph hit two clinching free throws.
“We needed it,” forward Saddiq Bey said. “We came off two tough games. They made a run down the stretch. We had to make sure we came together and finished the game.”
Detroit had eight players in protocol over the past two weeks, and all but one have returned. The Pistons were led in scoring on Saturday by Hamidou Diallo with 17 points and Trey Lyles and Bey with 16 each. Diallo and Bey were the only rotation players who didn’t test positive for the virus.
This is the first of two meetings between Utah and Detroit this season. The Pistons will visit Salt Lake City on Jan. 21.
–Field Level Media