Smith, Pistons seek third straight victory Sunday
Josh Smith has been criticized for his poor shooting over the years, and he’s not silencing any detractors with his slow start this season.
If Smith’s shooting doesn’t come around, coach Stan Van Gundy hopes he can keep contributing in other facets to help the Detroit Pistons find success.
Detroit will complete a four-game homestand while seeking a third straight victory Sunday against the Utah Jazz (5:30 pregame, 6 p.m. tip-off on FOX Sports Detroit).
Smith is shooting just 32.1 percent, including 0 for 9 from 3-point range. He’s also hit only 48.6 percent from the free throw line after going 4 for 10 in Friday’s 98-95 win over Milwaukee. Smith’s career percentage from the line entering the season was 65.4.
"I’m struggling to put the ball in the basket, but winning isn’t only about making shots, he said. "I know that I’ve still got intangibles that I can bring to the floor."
Smith’s 5-for-14 performance from the field was another disappointment, but his rebound and bucket with 15.1 seconds left put Detroit up four and his steal at the other end helped the Pistons (2-3) secure the victory.
"I give Josh a ton of credit for playing well despite the way he’s struggling with his shot," Van Gundy said. "He’s had a really rough time, but he (makes) … the two biggest plays of the game."
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope shot 26.2 percent during Detroit’s opening three-game skid, but he’s shot 60 percent and hit 7 of 12 from 3-point range in the back-to-back wins. He finished 7 of 11 from the field and had 19 points against the Bucks.
"The reason that KCP has the confidence to make those shots is that he’s prepared," Van Gundy said. "That’s how you build confidence to take shots – you shoot hundreds of balls a day and you watch them go through the net."
The Pistons rank among the worst in the league in shooting percentage at 41.2, but they’re facing a Jazz team that is near the bottom of the NBA in allowing opponents to hit 48.2 percent from the field.
Utah (2-4) played its worst game of the young season Friday, committing 23 turnovers in a 105-82 home loss to Dallas. The Jazz shot a season-worst 42.6 percent two days after Gordon Hayward hit a shot at the buzzer to beat Cleveland and cap a season-best shooting effort of 50.6 percent.
Hayward had averaged 24 points over his previous three contests but finished 3 for 9 from the floor and scored 12 against the Mavericks.
"We couldn’t convert, and I think when you struggle to score that much it just puts more and more pressure on your defense," coach Quinn Snyder said. "I thought we just wore down defensively when we didn’t see the ball going in the basket. This is the first time we just felt like we were really stuck in mud."
The Jazz are averaging 16.5 turnovers, nearly two more than last season.
"It’s something we have to get better at each and every day," said point guard Trey Burke, who finished with 11 points and three turnovers. We’ll watch film on it and see where we could have played better and learn from it."
Utah had won 15 of the previous 16 meetings before the Pistons overcame 32 points from Hayward in a 114-94 victory in the most recent matchup March 24.