SALT LAKE CITY – They’re not coming easy, but the Utah Jazz are winning the games they’re supposed to win as they extend their season-long victory streak, which moved to four games Monday night at Vivint Arena with a 100-94 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
Coach Quin Snyder called it a “gutsy effort” as the Jazz overcame a halftime deficit for the third time in four games against a team with a losing record.
“Everybody made a contribution,” said Snyder. “This was the persistence you have to have if you’re not having a good shooting night (38.8 percent). You have to defend and we did that in the second half.”
Once again the Jazz were led by second-year pro Donovan Mitchell who, after scoring more than 30 points in three straight games, scored 28 points. Rudy Gobert tied a career high with 25 rebounds, while scoring 18 points and blocking a pair of shots.
“Rudy was dominant on the glass and I thought Donovan made great decisions late, being able to split the traps,” Snyder said. “They’re a terrific offensive rebounding team and (Andre) Drummond in particular, who leads the league in second-chance points. Rudy was all over the boards and made it really hard for everybody. He’s playing the right way.”
With the win, the Jazz improved to 24-21 on the season and moved into the No. 8 position – the final playoff spot – in the Western Conference standings. They’ll head out on the road for a game in Los Angeles against the Clippers Wednesday night before returning for four more home games beginning Friday against Cleveland.
“Right now they’re not overly pretty, but we’re finding ways to win,” said Kyle Korver, who scored 19 points off the bench, including five of 11 from long range. “That’s what good teams do. Different guys stepped up and we patched together a win.”
“It was a team effort,” added Gobert. “We tried to be aggressive. We’re doing the things we're supposed to do on the defensive end. If we do that every night, we’re going to be in a great position.”
Utah had beaten the Pistons 110-105 nine days earlier and came into the game on a three-game winning streak with wins over Orlando, the Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago.
However they came out sluggish and fell behind 9-2 just a minute and a half into the game. The Jazz came back to tie the game briefly, but trailed the rest of the half by as many as 12. They ended the half on an 8-2 run to pull within six at 59-53.
The Jazz had trailed Orlando by 17 at halftime last Wednesday, but came back to take the lead late in the quarter thanks to a 25-3 run. This time, the Jazz scored nine quick points to tie the game at 62, and the two teams stayed within five points of each other until Mitchell sank a free throw at the 49-second mark to put the Jazz up six at 95-89, which was the final margin.
Grayson Allen logged 20 minutes, his third-highest total of the season and most since Nov. 14. He finished with eight points, including a pair of 3-pointers, and he might have earned the biggest cheer of the night when the 6-5 guard went high to swat away a driving layup by the 6-7 Stanley Johnson.
The Pistons were led by Blake Griffin, who had a quiet 19 points. He didn’t score until midway through the second quarter and only made three of his 11 3-point shots as he was content to stay outside rather than attack the basket against Gobert. Drummond finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds, while Reggie Bullock scored 13 and Reggie Jackson had 11.
The Pistons were playing the fourth game of a Western road trip after losing two and beating the Clippers Saturday night. But coach Dwane Casey was pleased overall with his team’s effort.
“I didn’t sense (fatigue),” he said. “I saw fight, I saw intensity. I saw a disposition that was here to win. I loved the way our guys competed.”
Casey did say he was “disheartened” by the disparity in free throws as the Jazz shot 36, making 26, while the Pistons only had 16 free throws and made 13.
After playing the Clippers Wednesday and the Cavaliers Friday, the Jazz will play Portland next Monday, Denver Wednesday and Minnesota on Friday.