Since arriving in Detroit, Bojan Bogdanovic has been the guy you want with the ball when it’s time for a bucket.
Wednesday’s game against the Jazz was Bogdanovic’s first game at Utah since he was traded to the Pistons shortly before the season began.
The veteran forward started slow, but gradually gained momentum and finished with a team-high 23 points to help Detroit (5-15) get its second straight win in a 125-116 win over Utah (12-8).
Bogdanovich, who played at Utah for three seasons from 2019-22, received a video tribute from the Jazz during the game’s first timeout, which ended with an uplifting message: “You’re welcome bro.” After the segment ended, Bogdanović then raised his arm up to pay tribute to the Jazz fans inside the arena.
Bogdanović has scored at least 20 points in five straight games and seven of the last eight.
“I think our cooperation brought more energy,” Bogdanovic said after the match. “The big win last night gave us a lot of confidence in this match. Once again, we played a great game. Lots of players in double figures. Every player that went down on the floor gave us something and brought something to the table.”
It may have been Bogdanovic’s homecoming, but Pistons forward Kevin Knox II improved on his stellar play from the Pistons’ win over the Nuggets the night before to finish with 21 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the 3-point line. The last time Knox scored at least 20 points was during his rookie season with the New York Knicks on April 3, 2019 against the Orlando Magic. She also scored a single-game career high in 3-point field goals for the Knox.
After the game, Pistons winger Hamidou Diallo doused his former Kentucky teammate with water to celebrate his best game since joining the team this offseason.
“It feels good, man,” Knox told Bali Sports reporter Natalie Kerwin. “We’ve played really hard in these last few games. It feels good to get two wins in a row. That was a big win for us.”
Marvin Bagley also dominated the game in his limited time on the floor as he recorded a season-high 19 points (9-of-10 from the field), five rebounds and two steals in 20 minutes on Wednesday. Pistons coach Duane Casey used Jalen Doreen, who finished with four points, seven rebounds and two blocks, for the majority of the game.
Alec Burks, who was drafted by the Jazz with the 12th overall pick in 2011, also returns to Utah on Wednesday. He played eight seasons at Utah and averaged 9.6 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.6 assists.
Despite being questionable before the game due to a renewal, Burks continued his offensive proficiency and totaled 18 of his 58 points off the bench for the Pistons. He dropped a three-pointer, assisted by Bogdanović, to give the Pistons a six-point lead with 2 minutes and 36 seconds left.
Killian Hayes finished with just two points, three rebounds and three assists in 16 minutes of play during the first half. He started the second half on the bench and was later ruled out of the game with a left calf injury, another blow to the Pistons’ depth.
“I don’t know what the latest is, but I hope he’s OK. Like everything else, he’s going to be the next guy,” Pistons coach Duane Casey said. “Our guys have done an excellent job stepping in and taking advantage of their opportunity. That’s who we have to be.”
Bogdanovic was coming off a season-high 22-point performance of nine rebounds and four assists against the Denver Nuggets the night before.
Bogdanovic has come into the game averaging 20.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists this season. He was acquired from the Jazz in a deal on September 22 in exchange for Kelly Olynyk and Sabin Lee, who both recently signed to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Olynyk averaged 9.1 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists in his only season with the Pistons last season. He finished with just six points, three rebounds, and six assists against his former team.
Lately Utah has been dominating the Pistons. Detroit has now won two of its last three encounters, including last season’s 126-116 win on Jan. 10. Before that, Utah had won 10 straight games from 2017-22.
Prior to Wednesday, the Pistons had failed to collect back-to-back wins this season, but the team is riding a two-game winning streak into Friday’s game against the Phoenix Suns.
“It’s one of those things where I’m really happy for our players because they’re really executing what we’re trying to achieve,” Casey said. “We’re trying to establish a defensive identity, even though tonight was an old western shootout. Tonight, Utah made some tough shots but we responded by scoring on the other end. I’m really proud of some of the growth our guys have had.”