The Utah Jazz have been feasting on Eastern Conference teams over the past week. They have won four consecutive games, all against nonconference opponents.
Utah’s latest conquest came on Friday, when it grinded out a 99-94 victory over the Celtics at Boston. The Jazz will look to sweep a four-game road trip when they visit the Detroit Pistons on Saturday.
Mike Conley led the Jazz on Friday with 25 points, hitting six 3-pointers. That made up for subpar offensive performances from Donovan Mitchell and Bojan Bogdanovic, who shot a combined 5-for-24 from the field. Jordan Clarkson boosted Utah off the bench with 17 points.
Conley’s output was highest since he scored 27 points against the Golden State Warriors on Nov. 22.
Utah was hoping that Conley would be the final piece to a championship puzzle when it acquired Memphis’ longtime point guard in a trade last summer. He has struggled on offense and with injuries but appears to be hitting his stride.
“I’m in a great place,” he said. “My teammates have been behind me this whole time. … They know how good I am. I know how good I am. I just have to sit back and let people say what they’re going to say until it starts to work.”
The Pistons have dropped nine of their last 10, including a 114-107 home loss to the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday.
Detroit erased a double-digit deficit in the second half, but Oklahoma City scored the last eight points. The Thunder shot 69 percent in the first half.
“Our defense was probably the worst it’s been since I’ve been here,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “The first three quarters were terrible. The fourth quarter, we made a muscle, came out and put our will into the game and played much better.”
Earlier in the week, point guard Derrick Rose was diagnosed with a Grade 2 ankle sprain. It’s likely that Rose won’t play again this season.
Another rotation guard, Bruce Brown, has missed the past four games due to left knee soreness. He is expected to play on Saturday.
The Pistons got an immediate boost from guard Jordan McRae after they claimed him off waivers from the Denver Nuggets. McRae had 15 points and three assists in 26 minutes against the Thunder.
“I didn’t think I was going to play, seeing how I didn’t know the plays,” he said. “I went in with the coaches and learned as much as I could for about 25-30 minutes, and then it was time to play.”
McRae will continue to get steady minutes with Rose sidelined.
“His skill set is something every team needs,” Casey said. “Derrick Rose is probably our best attack guy off the dribble, and Luke (Kennard), when he was healthy, was doing that, but you’ve got to have a guy to break a defense down, especially in today’s game. … That’s something Jordan can do.”
Power forward Christian Wood has been a bright spot for the Pistons over the past 11 games, averaging 21.2 points and 10.1 rebounds.
Utah won the teams’ first meeting 104-81 on Dec. 30. Mitchell led the Jazz that night with 23 points, and Clarkson added 20 off the bench. Rose was the Pistons’ top scorer with 20 points.
–Field Level Media