So this was the defending World Champion Detroit Pistons, huh?

You could have fooled the Utah Jazz, looking at their final 21-point victory margin Wednesday night. You'd figure on a 107-86 win against your basic Orlando or Minnesota, but this was the two-time world champs.For the Pistons, who reeled off 10 straight wins earlier this year, it was their third straight loss, coming on the heels of a 24-point loss the previous night to the Lakers.

Despite the large final margin, the contest had the intense, playoff-type atmosphere for most of the evening, with several standing ovations for the Jazz and loud booing for you-know-who.

Everybody's favorite bad boy, Bill Laimbeer, wearing a plastic protective facemask for a broken cheekbone, had a near-perfect night from the Jazz fans' standpoint. He scored only two points and got zero rebounds in just 16 foul-plagued minutes.

Laimbeer, who was booed lustily in the pre-game introductions, was in foul trouble from the opening minute and a half when he picked up two quick ones. He stalked off the floor, hurling his facemask toward the end of the bench as the place went wild.

Later when the Jazz took the lead 29-28 on a John Stockton jumper at the 8:21 mark of the second period, the Salt Palace suddenly erupted in boos. Why? Laimbeer was re-entering the game. He made his only shot of the night, an 18-footer from the right side, then exited a few minutes later with foul No. 3. This time he gave the officials his best disgusted look as he slowly walked off.

Foul No. 4 came midway through the third period and Laimbeer put his arms out to his side in a "Who me" pose. He came back early in the fourth period, but didn't do anything except make a turnover. When he left for good, the Jazz led by 12 on their way to an eventual 24-point lead.

In the locker room, Laimbeer was his usual charming self. "Excuse ME," he said gruffly to reporters near his locker. "Please back UP. Do you MIND?"

Most reporters steered clear of Laimbeer after that. You never know what he might do. But on the other hand, he might want to talk.

Do you have any comment on the game, Bill?

"None," he replied, sternly.

Thank YOU.

At least Isiah Thomas, who led the Pistons with 21 points, was willing to talk about the loss.

"Foul trouble hurt us," he said. "Anytime you don't get to play Bill Laimbeer and James Edwards, who are a big part of your offense and defense, it hurts. We played with the second unit basically."

According to Piston Coach Chuck Daly, the Pistons got beat at their own game - defense.

"We were still in the game 73-70 when they just turned up the defense a notch," said Daly. "It took us out of our game. We just could not score. If you're going to play great teams on the road, you're going to have a hard time winning if you can't shoot."

Detroit's defensive specialist Dennis Rodman also mentioned defense as a factor, only from the Piston standpoint.

"We have to play better defense. We can't rely on the name, `world champion Detroit Pistons.' We have to pull it together."

Thomas tried his best to shrug off the loss.

"When you lose, you lose. Whether it's by one or 30 it's a loss. You just try to win the next one."