Basketball / NBA

Strong defensive effort guides Jazz past Pistons


Amid early offensive struggles, the Utah Jazz never wavered on defense.

The surging Jazz pulled away for a 104-81 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Monday night by leaning on their trademark rugged defense. Utah ran the Pistons off the 3-point line, holding Detroit to 4-of-14 shooting from the perimeter. The Jazz also forced 17 turnovers and scored 25 points off those miscues.

In the end, the Pistons managed a season low in points.

Getting stops revived a sluggish Utah offense. The Jazz shot just 33.3 percent from the floor in the first half, but connected on 59 percent of their field goal attempts after halftime. They made 26 baskets over the final two quarters after totaling just 13 through the first 24 minutes.

“The biggest thing in the first half was just the offense getting stagnant,” guard Donovan Mitchell said. “We did what we wanted on defense.”

Mitchell scored 23 points and Jordan Clarkson added 20 to lead the Jazz. Rudy Gobert added 13 points and 19 rebounds, and Bojan Bogdanovic scored 17 as Utah won for the eighth time in nine games.

Derrick Rose had 20 points to lead the Pistons, while Andre Drummond added 15 points and 13 rebounds. Detroit has dropped seven straight against Utah.

“It’s the tale of two halves and until we grow up and understand that, that’s our cross to bear,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said.

Utah never found much of an offensive rhythm in the first half. The Jazz did not score their first basket until five minutes into the game. Detroit did not fare much better, shooting 38 percent in the half. That opened the door for Utah to keep things close.

Bucks 123, Bulls 102

In Chicago, Giannis Antetokounmpo had 23 points and 10 rebounds after missing two games with a sore back, and Milwaukee pulled away in the second half for a victory over the Bulls.

Khris Middleton scored 25 points for the Bucks and Eric Bledsoe had 15 points in 16 minutes after missing the previous eight games with a fractured right leg. Milwaukee improved to a league-best 30-5.

Chicago’s Zach LaVine scored 19 points but shot just 7-for-23 from the field.

Wizards 123, Heat 105

In Washington, Jordan McRae scored a season-high 29 points, Garrison Mathews had a career-high 28 and Ian Mahinmi added a career-best 25 as the depleted Wizards beat Miami.

With the Wizards (10-22) minus All-Star shooting guard Bradley Beal and five other key members of their rotation, including rookie forward Rui Hachimura, they got huge contributions from an unexpected trio.

McRae, a third-year player, Mathews, in his 11th NBA game, and Mahinmi, a 13-year veteran, enjoyed nights to remember against Miami (24-9), which had its five-game winning streak snapped. The Heat entered with the second-best record in the East and lost for just the third time in 20 games against conference opponents.

Jimmy Butler led Miami with 27 points. Bam Adebayo had 14 points and 14 rebounds.

Suns 122, Trail Blazers 116

In Portland, Devin Booker scored 33 points, Kelly Oubre Jr. had 29 and Phoenix rallied past the hosts.

After trailing by 19, the Suns roared back to win their second consecutive game and hand the Trail Blazers their fourth straight defeat.

A 3-pointer by Oubre gave Phoenix a 120-114 lead with 43.8 seconds left. After the shot, Oubre blew kisses to the crowd.

Ricky Rubio added 18 points and 13 assists for the Suns.

Damian Lillard had 33 points and CJ McCollum scored 25 for Portland. Hassan Whiteside had 16 points and 22 rebounds.

Timberwolves 122, Nets 115 (OT)

In Minneapolis, Shabazz Napier scored a season-high 24 points, Jarrett Culver added 21 and the short-handed Timberwolves rallied past Brooklyn in overtime.

Minnesota had lost 12 of 13 and was again without injured Karl-Anthony Towns and ill Andrew Wiggins. Gorgui Dieng started in Towns’ place and had 11 points and 20 rebounds. It was the Timberwolves’ first home win since Nov. 13.

Spencer Dinwiddie scored 36 to lead the Nets, who have lost three straight.

Hawks 101, Magic 93

In Orlando, Brandon Goodwin scored 21 points, Kevin Huerter added 19 and Atlanta topped the hosts to end a 10-game skid.

Playing without injured guard Trae Young (ankle) for the second straight game, the Hawks trailed by 18 during the first half but rallied in the third quarter. Alex Len scored eight of his 18 points to fuel a 15-4 run, while Atlanta’s defense yielded only six field goals in the period. Len’s drive and dunk just before the horn gave Atlanta a 74-72 lead, and it pulled away near the midpoint of the fourth with an 11-0 run.

Nikola Vucevic led the Magic with 27 points.