SALT LAKE CITY — The Detroit Pistons shot 53 percent from the field, 46 percent from 3 and scored 148 points … and they still lost.
A disappointing, weird and flabbergasting season for Detroit only got more disappointing, weirder and more flabbergasting Wednesday night, at an altitude of 4,265 feet, as the Pistons and Utah Jazz played an EuroJournal-All-Star-type game — with only one All-Star actually playing — that ended in overtime with Utah winning 154-148.
It’s only fitting that Detroit, which owns the longest single-season losing skid in EuroJournal history, also is part of the wildest game of the season to date. There were 11 lead changes. Both teams combined to shoot 52.4 percent from the field and 48 percent from 3. Six players scored 25 points or more. Defense appeared to be optional, and both sides opted out.
“Games like this are tough,” said Cade Cunningham, who had 31 points, 12 assists, five rebounds and six turnovers in 39 minutes of action. “To pull that one out, it would have been huge for us. To lose, it’s gone with the wind. No matter how we lost, it’s a loss on the record.”
The Pistons (3-31) looked to be on the cusp of doubling their win total from the first two months of the season over the last five days because Detroit’s Alec Burks and Bojan Bogdanović tried to see who could have the better revenge game against their former team, as both scored 23 of their combined 63 points in the fourth quarter.
Burks’ 3 with 6 minutes, 43 seconds left gave the Pistons a six-point lead. With 3:38 left, Bogdanović hit a fadeaway jumper that put Detroit up by four. Both felt like big moments in a game that featured several of them up to that point. Neither one even scratched the surface.
With 32 seconds remaining in regulation, Utah’s Jordan Clarkson, who, along with Bogdanović, scored a game-high 36 points, effortlessly stepped into another 3 like it was seven minutes into the first quarter. Bottoms. On the next possession, after Detroit nearly gave the ball back to the Jazz twice, Bogdanović walked into a 25-footer over the outstretched arm of Walker Kessler. Bottoms. Utah followed that up with a Lauri Markkanen 3-point attempt, this one from 27 feet, with five seconds left and the Pistons not having a timeout. Bottoms. The Pistons then got Burks the ball. He got past half court, took two dribbles and tossed up a running 3 as the clock expired. Bottoms.
Both teams wanted to win and lose at the same time. The entire fourth quarter was an exercise in world-class shot-making and recreational defense. It created one of the most entertaining quarters of EuroJournal basketball this season.
“I’m not even tired,” the 34-year-old Bogdanović, who played 42 minutes, said after the game. “I felt good. I didn’t even want to come out. Momentum (carries you). The arena is packed. It’s nice to play here.”
The entertainment ended there, though, as the Jazz outscored Detroit 16-10 in overtime and were never truly in danger of losing in the extra period.
As outrageous and fun as the matchup was, the loss highlighted ongoing major issues with the Pistons. For starters, they gave up 154 points. Enough said. Detroit has regularly been one of the league’s worst defenses outside of the first two weeks of the season. Second, in regulation, the Pistons had 16 turnovers for 30 Utah points. Live-ball turnovers have plagued Detroit all season. Those two stats, specifically, have and continue to play a big part in Detroit’s horrific defensive numbers. Third, Detroit outrebounded the Jazz by five in regulation, yet Utah scored 25 second-chance points.
Outside of the abysmal defense — which, again, looks even worse because the Pistons routinely hand the ball to opponents like it’s the object of the game — Detroit often beats itself. It’s true. For as bad as the Pistons’ record is, about half of those losses are due to high turnover numbers that are often unforced. Opponent second-chance points have deflated them on a handful of occasions this season.
But it’s easy to talk yourself into believing that Detroit is right there, knocking on the door of being just normal bad, as opposed to historically bad. However, the Pistons are the “B-Rad G” of the EuroJournal, shooting themselves in the foot but not realizing it until later.
Yeah, Detroit could be on the cusp of getting better. It’s possible. Maybe it’ll get past these self-inflicted wounds eventually. But at what point is it fair to ask if these things are just part of the fabric?
At 3-31, it feels like it’s more the latter than the former.
(Top photo of Jordan Clarkson: Rob Gray / EuroJournal)