April 15, 2014

For a group that just knocked off the best team in the NBA, the Detroit Pistons appear to be lacking confidence lately.

Although coach Stan Van Gundy has voiced his displeasure with the team's defense, it hasn't changed much on the court yet, leaving the Pistons still in search of answers entering the finale of a four-game trip against the Utah Jazz on Monday night.

Van Gundy called Detroit's defense in Thursday's 115-99 loss at New Orleans "deplorable" after it tied a franchise record by allowing 72 points in the first half.

Two days later he said his team "didn't want to make an effort" in the third quarter of a 104-101 defeat at Denver after they matched another team mark by surrendering 39 points in the period. The Pistons (23-21) have allowed at least 35 in four quarters over the last three games - something that happened only five times previously.

The last two weeks included wins over Golden State and Houston, but Detroit lost its other five games - including two of three on this trip to drop to 9-14 away from home.

"Stan is saying exactly what we need to do and we aren't going on the court and applying it right away so he is overly frustrated at this point and I see it," Stanley Johnson told the team's website following Saturday's loss to the Nuggets. "I don't blame him for being overly frustrated because we aren't doing our job as professionals."

Detroit's previous four opponents combined to shoot 49.3 percent, and the first three - Chicago, the Rockets and Pelicans - scored at least 111 points to mark the first time the Pistons have allowed 110 or more in three straight games since December 2014.

Things looked far different when Detroit beat Utah 92-87 on Oct. 28 - part of a five-game stretch of holding opponents to fewer than 95 to open the season.

Reggie Jackson scored 19 points - his combined total while making 8 of 26 shots in the last two games - and Andre Drummond added 18 and 10 rebounds in only Detroit's fourth win in the last 23 meetings. The Pistons can win back-to-back matchups for the first time since December 2003, a stretch in which they are 1-11 in Salt Lake City.

Utah (19-24) is one of the league's weaker offensive teams, averaging 97.7 points, but has eclipsed 100 in its last five - its longest such streak since January 2014.

The Jazz have played since late December without Derrick Favors (back) and Alec Burks (ankle), their second- and third-leading scorers behind Gordon Hayward. The pair combined for 44 points against Detroit in October, but Burks won't return from surgery until after the All-Star break and it remains unclear when Favors will be back.

Hayward has carried the load without them, averaging 22.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists since Dec. 26. He had 21 points and nine assists in Friday's 108-86 win at Brooklyn that was only Utah's second victory in six games. Hayward has nine assists in three of the last six contests and has averaged 28 points over the last three.

"He's not just scoring in pick-and-roll, he's finding other people," coach Quin Snyder said. "I think more than anything, there's a sense that he's growing and he feels like he belongs on a high level."

The Jazz, one of the NBA's best defensive teams with an average of 97.4 points allowed, are opening a season-high six-game homestand. They're 12-9 in Salt Lake City.

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