UTAH JAZZ

Shorthanded Jazz Avoid Embarrassment Against Pistons

Dec 21, 2023, 8:28 PM | Updated: Dec 26, 2023, 6:09 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz were shorthanded but managed to overcome their injuries to defeat the Detroit Pistons 119-111.

Lauri Markkanen (hamstring), Jordan Clarkson (hamstring), Keyonte George (foot), Talen Horton-Tucker (foot), and Omer Yurtseven (illness) all missed the game for the Jazz, but were carried by Kelly Olynyk who led the team with a season-high 27 points.

The Pistons lost their 25th consecutive game despite a 28-point outing from guard Cade Cunningham.

When Will The Pistons End Losing Streak?

With 24 consecutive losses under their belt, the Jazz presented the Pistons with an ideal opportunity to snap their losing streak.

The Jazz were missing three starters, including their top two scorers, and were playing on the second night of a back-to-back on the road where they were just 2-13 entering the night.

Despite what should have been a gift-wrapped win, the Pistons fumbled the game away, committing 21 turnovers while shooting just 9-31 from the three-point line.

After letting the Jazz off the hook, the Pistons will be hard-pressed to find another game that appears as winnable on paper.

Detroit will bookend the Christmas holiday with a home-and-home against the Brooklyn Nets before traveling to face the league-leading Boston Celtics on December 28.

The Pistons will catch the Toronto Raptors on December 30 with a similar script to the Jazz. The Raptors will be playing on the second night of a back-to-back against a well-rested Pistons team, marking perhaps Detroit’s best chance to snap the streak.

If the Pistons don’t beat Toronto, they’ll carry the streak into the New Year as they head out on a four-game road trip through Houston, Utah, Golden State, and Denver.

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Eventually, Detroit will snap this dismal stretch, and it may come sooner rather than later, regardless, the Pistons are a long way away from being a functional NBA franchise.

With numerous top-10 draft picks on their roster including a number one overall pick in Cunningham, the Pistons have leaned into the strategy of rebuilding the franchise through the draft.

However, if their 25-game losing streak proves anything, it’s that rebuilds need to be handled delicately, and even with repeated lottery draft selections, a brighter future is far from guaranteed.

Revisiting Bogdanovic, Olynyk Trade

It’s been over 100 games since the Jazz traded Bojan Bogdanovic to the Detroit Pistons for Kelly Olynyk, a move I deemed the worst value transaction of the Danny Ainge era.

In retrospect, that was an unfair assessment.

Though Bogdanovic has continued his stellar scoring in Detroit averaging 21.5 points on 48 percent shooting including 41 percent from three, he’s done nothing to set the Pistons on the right course as a franchise.

While Olynyk’s averages haven’t been as gaudy, scoring 11.0 points, while adding 6.0 rebounds, and 3.9 assists, he’s brought a level of steadiness to the roster that prevented the Jazz from truly cratering during their lowest moments, and Thursday’s win was a good example.

Beginning early in the first quarter Olynyk recognized that the roster needed him to function as a scorer, and he did that by pouring in 27 points despite taking just 16 shots.

Despite his focus on scoring, he didn’t neglect his other responsibilities to the team recording six assists and four steals in 35 minutes.

Olynyk may not be long for the Jazz as several teams around the NBA have inquired about his availability. And, at 32 years old with an expiring contract, the Jazz would be wise to see if they can add either future draft assets, or a young player to the roster in exchange for his services.

However, Olynyk has served as a parachute for the Jazz after the front office traded Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, allowing the team to make a soft landing in the NBA’s basement, rather than free-falling as we have seen from the Pistons.

Bogdanovic is a terrific player, and he will help the next team he plays for as they hope to compete for a title, but the Jazz needed more than a sharpshooter, and Olynyk has filled the role to perfection.

Nightly Awards: Jazz vs. Pistons

The “Bad Box Score Good Performance” Award:

Goes to Luka Samanic who went 0-5 from the floor in 10 second half minutes, but provided much-needed energy to a Jazz team that was dangerously close to ending the Pistons streak.

“That’s what we want our program to be about,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said. “People that are willing to make themselves a part of the team, stay committed, and stay locked in no matter how many minutes they get night to night.”

Samanic recorded five rebounds during his brief stint while scoring two points at the free-throw line.

The “Tough Night For The Tank Crowd” Award:

Goes to those who protested the Jazz’s soft tank last season as the team waited until the second half of the season to dismantle the roster in favor of developing young players and improving their draft stock.

Victor Wembanyama and Brandon Miller have proven to be worthwhile top two picks, but the draft appears to have leveled out significantly beginning with the third pick.

The Jazz wound up with the ninth overall pick and Taylor Hendricks who recorded seven points and four rebounds in 16 minutes against Detroit. Most importantly, the Jazz were seven points better than the Pistons with Hendricks on the floor.

On the flip side, fifth overall pick Ausar Thompson recorded seven points and two rebounds and was a -18 in 19 minutes on the court.

Neither player has begun to scratch their enormous potential, but Hendricks contributions to the Jazz are beginning to rival what Thompson has done in Detroit despite being nearly a full year younger, having played 500 fewer NBA minutes, and being drafted four spots later.

Utah Jazz Next Broadcast

The Jazz will face the Raptors on Friday at 5:30 pm MST in Toronto. The game will be televised on KJZZ, streamed on Jazz+, and can be heard on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone.


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Ben Anderson is the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports and the co-host of Jake and Ben from 10-12p with Jake Scott on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter at @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.

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