Moral victories do not go a long way in the NBA, but the Nets (10-15) put forth a gritty effort in their loss to Cleveland Friday Night, especially after they lost Deron Williams late in the second quarter with a strained calf. The Nets held the Cavaliers to 40 percent shooting, which aided a last-gasp surge late in the fourth quarter that, alas, fell short after Kevin Garnett’s game-tying three-point attempt misfired.
Williams, a subject of recent trade rumors, is listed as doubtful for tonight’s game and Brook Lopez’s lower back strain will sideline him for the eighth straight game.
The Nets will be looking to put a halt to a three-game losing streak, but that’s small potatoes when compared to the Detroit Pistons’ latest stretch: a twelve-game losing streak preceded their current three-game skid as they roll into Brooklyn in disarray.
The Pistons (5-22) rank last in the NBA in field goal percentage (41.2) and next-to-last in free throw percentage (69.7). That’s a recipe for sustained frustration which finally came to a head on Friday Night against the Toronto Raptors. After Raptors forward James Johnson posterized Pistons center Andre Drummond with a powerful dunk midway through the fourth quarter, giving the Raptors a 20-point lead, tempers flared after Drummond handed out a retaliatory cheap-shot flagrant foul the next time down the floor. Four technical fouls were handed out after the jawing subsided, and Drummond was promptly ejected. When asked about his center’s defensive resolve on the play, Head Coach Stan Van Gundy gave a long pause and said, “Yeah, we need to show it before we get down 20. We need to show it throughout the game.”
The Pistons’ frontline will be a cause of concern on the boards for Lionel Hollins’s Nets. Led by Drummond (12.3 per game), Greg Monroe (8.9), and Josh Smith (7.3), the Pistons are fourth in the NBA in rebounding, and tops in offensive rebounding. The Nets, out-rebounded 44-37 by the Cavaliers Friday night, will look to Mason Plumlee to continue his terrific play since entering the starting lineup a few weeks back.
In the past five games, Plumlee has averaged 17.4 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks in 34.4 minutes pre game, and has scored in double figures in each game, the longest such streak of his young career. After a slow start this season that hinted of a sophomore slump, Plumlee has returned to the level that branded him first team NBA All-Rookie last season. Teammates have made a conscious effort to get Plumlee the ball in the paint and above the rim and he’s delivered many times with impressive dunks.
These two teams last met on November 1st, in a 102-90 Nets victory led by Joe Johnson’s season-high 34 points, the most he’s scored on the road as a Nets guard, and Kevin Garnett’s 18 points & 14 rebounds. Johnson grabbed eight rebounds & dished out six assists on the game, and scored 15 points on 7-9 shooting in the fourth quarter, matching the entire Pistons team. The Nets also held the Pistons to 1-17 from three-point range, marking just the fifth time in franchise history that the Nets held their opponent to one or fewer made threes on 17 plus attempts.
The boost in the Nets defense has been trending upward lately. They’ve held teams to a 42.5 percent clip the past ten games, the second-best in the league over that stretch, including eight blocked shots in each of the past two games. Coach Hollins will need significant contributions from the bench if Williams is indeed a scratch tonight, possibly from Darius Morris, the prime candidate to serve as the backup point guard if Jarrett Jack is given the start. Morris played five minutes on Friday night with little contribution.
The Nets have a decent chance to right their ship: they’ve got an ugly 1-10 record against teams over .500, but they’ll face losing teams in the next five games, including four at home, starting tonight.
Tip-off at 6:00 P.M. EST at Barclays Center.