DETROIT (AP) — Cade Cunningham scored 18 of his career-high 29 points in the third quarter to help the Detroit Pistons erase a 22-point deficit and beat the Utah Jazz 126-116 on Monday night.
“I have to give all the credit to my teammates, who kept encouraging me and getting me the ball,” said Cunningham, who made 10 of his last 12 shots after an 0-5 start. “I’m new to this league, but I’ve been playing basketball for a long time. I know what I’m capable of doing to help a team win once I get into a rhythm.”
Saddiq Bey added 29 points for Detroit, which is 4-2 in 2022 after finishing 2021 with 18 losses in 19 games. Lead assistant coach Rex Kalamian took charge with coach Dwane Casey having entered COVID-19 protocol.
“That’s the first game ball I’ve gotten in 28 years,” said Kalamian, who has been an NBA assistant coach since 1995. “I wanted to get the win for the players, but it is a great feeling to get my first one as a head coach.”
Donovan Mitchell scored 31 points for Utah, and Hassan Whiteside had a season-high 21 points as well as 14 rebounds.
“Give them credit, because they did a lot of good things in the second half, but we didn’t do much right at all in the second half,” Mitchell said. “They made a lot of shots, but we were making it too easy for them. You can’t get up more than 20 points and lose. You just can’t.”
Utah (28-13), which had won 10 straight against the Pistons, led by 22 in the second quarter but was outscored 94-62 in the final 2 1/2 quarters. Rudy Gobert was still out in health and safety protocols, but Utah coach Quinn Snyder didn’t use that as an excuse.
“When you don’t have the defensive player of the year on the floor, you aren’t going to be as good,” he said. “But we are still good enough to do a lot better than we did in the second half of the game. There’s no reason for us to play as poorly as we did.”
Utah trailed 90-84 in the first minute of the fourth quarter, but scored the next nine points to take a 3-point lead with 9:53 to play. Trey Lyles and Cory Joseph hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put Detroit up 102-96, and although Utah scored on its next two possessions, Cunningham answered with a 3-pointer, a layup and a free throw.
That put Detroit up 108-100, and the Jazz never got back within one possession.
“I’m really proud of what Cade did, because he’s a rookie who missed his first five shots,” Kalamian said. “When a guy gets off to a start like that, they have to have a short memory. If they are 0-4, they have to focus on making the next four to get to 4-8. That’s exactly how Cade approached it tonight.”
Jazz guard Mike Conley said there was a defensive breakdown.
“We weren’t communicating about when we needed to help and when we needed to stay in place,” he said, “and there were too many possessions where we were leaving guys wide open for easy baskets.”
The Jazz led 54-32 midway through the second quarter, thanks to 18 points from Whiteside. The Pistons answered with a 16-6 run. It was 61-48 at the half. Cunningham continued the Detroit rally in the third, putting up 18 points and three assists as the Pistons took the lead.
“We had a lot of moving pieces tonight with Coach Rex behind the bench and getting down 13-2 in the first few minutes,” Bey said. “When we were down 22 in the second quarter, we knew we had to get back into the game. When it was within 13, we had a chance.”
Jazz: Utah finished its five-game road trip with a 2-3 record despite starting with wins in New Orleans and Denver. It lost to Toronto, Indiana and Chicago.
Pistons: Detroit hadn’t beaten Utah since Jan. 25, 2016, when Reggie Jackson had 29 points and Ersan Ilyasova added 16. None of the Pistons who played in that game are still on the roster.