The frustration on the Detroit Pistons sideline was palpable in the first half.
And it was never more evident than during Blake Griffin’s halftime exit:
Blake Griffin: Not a happy camper pic.twitter.com/k2ParVupTV— Nicolas (@NicolasHenkel) February 3, 2021
Once again, the Pistons’ lack of a dynamic playmaker was evident in the first two quarters against a strong, swarming Utah Jazz defense.
Detroit has derived much of its best offense through Jerami Grant and, more recently, Wayne Ellington’s shooting, but the Jazz took most of that away early in the game. Utah clung tightly to both Grant and Ellington all game long, forcing them to work extremely hard for every inch of space. Without the easy buckets those two often generate, the rest of the offense faltered.
The Pistons’ issues were exacerbated by the absence of Derrick Rose. It was not made clear why Rose didn’t play tonight—he was in the building but Rodney McGruder got his minutes. But there were some theories floating around Pistons Twitter:
My baseless speculation: Giving McGruder minutes as show of support after Warriors kerfuffle. Might have even been Rose's idea. Also defense. https://t.co/177KPgSBsE— Detroit Bad Boys ☠ (@detroitbadboys) February 3, 2021
Detroit got its best performances of the night from its three most-significant free agent acquisitions.
Mason Plumlee largely neutralized Rudy Gobert, scoring 17 points and grabbing 14 rebounds on the way.
Jerami Grant led the team in points with 27 on 18 shots and made a bunch of the high-level plays Pistons have grown to expect from him during the team’s big fourth quarter surge.
Josh Jackson brought much-needed energy on both ends and finished with 22 points and eight rebounds. He’s beginning to look like the exciting player we saw early in the year prior to his ankle injury.
Defensively, Detroit was a bit of a mess. Nearly every one of their 15 turnovers and many of their missed shots resulted in transition points for Utah. Detroit struggled to find Jazz shooters in odd-man situations and Utah made them pay consistently.
The ghost of the 2017 Draft appeared as it does seemingly every time the Pistons face Donovan Mitchell. The Louisville product was a terror off the ball, especially in spot-up opportunities. Mitchell ended his night with 32 points which doesn’t even begin to capture the help he provided his teammates by putting pressure on Detroit’s defense in all situations.
Looking ahead, Detroit looks to rebound on Friday in Phoenix on the third game of the now five-game West Coast swing.
Some additional thoughts:
- Isaiah Stewart paired his nightly energy with a second consecutive game of finishing around the rim after a rough stretch in that regard.
- Sekou Doumbouya played a solid 12 minutes, especially defensively. He still needs to find more ways to impact the game offensively, though.
- After seeing how poorly things went without another ball handler in Derrick Rose, you wonder whether we might see some more of Saben Lee and/or Frank Jackson in case of a future trade.
- When Detroit is unexpectedly short a point guard, it would be nice to see more Svi Mykhailiuk and Saddiq Bey to try to create offense in less traditional ways.
- Speaking of Saddiq, he played some very good fourth quarter minutes when Detroit chipped away at the lead. Hopefully that gives him some much-needed confidence.