AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — The Detroit Pistons had legendary Motown act “The Temptations” sing at halftime, but it was another old familiar Michigan guy who put on the best show Friday night at The Palace.
In an interesting twist, the crowd didn’t even act like it minded that former Wolverine star Trey Burke’s big night was an impetus to the Utah Jazz’s 110-89 blowout win over the home team.
For a night, Burke was back in a blue and yellow uniform in the Great Lakes State, tearing it up in a big win.
Supportive Michigan fans cheered every time he scored in his 20-point night. The Jazz loved it every time he passed to a teammate for a score in his career-high 12-assist game.
“It felt good. We had a lot of fun tonight as a team,” Burke said. “We came out, I felt like we matched their intensity each quarter. That was what it was about — we never let up.”
Burke wouldn’t let the Jazz, who improved to 14-27 with their 15th win in 16 games against the Pistons (16-23).
Even after a slow 1-for-6 start and with seven turnovers, Burke played as confidently and aggressively as he had during his rookie season. He finished hitting 8 of 17 shots — and heard a loud roar of approval from the crowd each time.
“I’m not even going to lie,” Burke said. ”I came out a little excited.”
He had people in Michigan and Utah excited by the time the night ended.
Burke was the Jazz’s leading scorer on a night the team shot 54.4 percent and also got strong outings from Enes Kanter (18 points, seven rebounds) and Marvin Williams (17 points, seven boards).
“I think once he settled down, he played a helluva game,” Williams said. ”To come home, every time he scored the ball it was almost like a home game for this guy. That’s exciting to see. Michigan has some great fans to receive him like that as a visitor. That shows a lot of respect for what he did at Michigan.”
This was the seventh time Burke has hit the 20-point mark in his short, 28-game pro career. The 6-foot-1 playmaker also registered his third double-double, a feat the All-American never accomplished in two seasons in Ann Arbor.
Burke just enjoyed that it helped the Jazz bounce back from their 109-105 loss in San Antonio on Wednesday, a game in which he ended by scoring 11 points in the final 65 seconds.
“First and foremost, we won,” Burke said. “I think once I was able to calm down, I was able to just play my game. I had fun tonight, just to be able to have all the Michigan fans come out, my big support system back here in Michigan. It felt good to get a win.”
It might have also raised some what-if questions in Michigan.
What if Burke had returned to the Wolverines for his junior season?
What if the Pistons had drafted him, as many expected, at No. 8 instead of Georgia shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope?
What if Detroit had been able to slow him down on this night when he was nicely setting up his teammates and hitting floaters, fast-break layups, mid-range jumpers and a 3-pointer?
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin admitted he is just thrilled that Burke is providing his team a solid answer at point guard.
"There’s not a moment that’s too big for him,” Corbin said this week. “He relishes in those moments."
Friday was a prime example. It wasn’t officially Trey Burke Day in Michigan, but it could have been.
University of Michigan fans were spread throughout the arena wearing blue No. 3 Wolverine and Jazz jerseys. They were happy to have him back in the state for a night, and the feeling was mutual for the young player who led that school to the 2013 NCAA championship game last spring.
“It feels great to be back,” Burke said. “It feels like a second home to me.”
Burke spent part of his free time in the Great Lakes State on Thursday night and Friday signing autographs for fans and catching up with friends and family members, some of whom made the four-hour drive up from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.
Burke was appreciative of the fun outpouring of support.
“Hey, man, it made me feel like I was back (playing) in Michigan, honestly. That felt like yesterday. It brought back some memories,” he said. ”I felt like I was back in the tournament playing against VCU or something. It was a good day. I think we need to carry this over to Minnesota.”
It’s unlikely Burke will get a similar positive reception tonight at the Target Center if he plays well.
He’s fine with that. He’s already got fans in Utah and Michigan (and his home state of Ohio, of course).7 comments on this story
Burke smiled when asked if he’s glad to still be wearing a blue and yellow uniform.
“I’m going to be a Wolverine for life,” he said. “Go Blue.”