Durant scores 51 as Nets defeat Pistons

Durant shoots a fadeaway
Nets forward Kevin Durant shoots a fade-away against the Detroit Pistons on Sunday night.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Durant’s 51 points propelled the Nets to victory against the Pistons on Sunday night, as Brooklyn once more dominated the fourth quarter against the much younger team from Detroit. 

Like many games this season, the Nets began the contest with lackluster defense and spotty jump shooting, allowing the greatly-outmatched Pistons to keep the score close in the first half — with the Nets leading only by three points (60-57) at halftime. 

With Nets star James Harden not playing, Detroit, who has won a measly four games this season, also kept pace into the second half, taking a 70-66 lead with 8:12 left in the third quarter, and holding off Brooklyn to maintain their advantage heading into the fourth. 

By that point, Durant had recorded 38 points, while Pistons rookie point guard Cade Cunningham, the first pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, had scored 23. 

The surprisingly-close scoreboard may have given hope to fans of Detroit, the losingest team in the league, that they could sneak a victory over the first-place Nets — but Durant and his fellow ballers from Barclays Center had other plans, and they turned up the heat in the last 12 minutes. 

Brooklyn began the fourth quarter with a 19-1 run, suffocating the Pistons ball handlers and running wild in transition to fill up both the box score and the highlight reel. 

Fourth quarters have been a strong point for the Nets, with several once-close games ending in lopsided wins for Brooklyn.

With Harden resting this game, the Nets were left in a difficult position when Durant was whistled for his fifth foul with 8:46 left on the clock — but head coach Steve Nash later told reporters that the former MVP was simply too locked-in to head to the bench.  

“We debated [resting him with five fouls] but he had it going,” Nash said. “He had the look in his eyes that he wasn’t gonna want to come out. So, we tried to ride him there and kinda beg that we didn’t get that last foul.”

Durant was never called for his sixth foul, and stayed active long enough to record the NBA’s second 50+ point game this year. (Golden State Warrior point guard Stephen Curry scored 50 points against the Atlanta Hawks on Nov. 8). 

After the game, Nash marveled at Durant’s stat line, praising the future Hall of Famer as “incredible.” 

“Kevin was incredible,” Nash said. “For him to be able to score 51, nine assists, seven rebounds, two blocks, and a steal… I mean, unbelievable.”

When Durant was asked whether he had been aware of his box score approaching the coveted 50 mark, the All-Star responded simply, “of course.” 

Sunday marked Durant’s seventh career game with 50-or-more points, which ties him for 13th most in NBA history, behind retired legends like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Wilt Chamberlain, as well as four active players — James Harden (23), LeBron James (12), Damian Lillard (12), and Stephen Curry (10).

Interestingly, his 51 points set a new scoring record in Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena, which was previously held by former Piston, and current Brooklyn Net, Blake Griffin, who had 50 points in the 2015-built stadium. 

While the Nets were odds-on favorites to secure victory on Sunday against the flailing Pistons, the team showed an impressive ability to keep up with the energy of Detroit’s young core. 

Brooklyn’s starting lineup boasted an average age of 32.6, while the Pistons starting lineup averaged only 21 years old — and while the budding Detroit team attempted to use their youthful legs as an advantage, the Nets managed to match their explosiveness on both sides of the ball. 

The victory brings the team to a 3-1 record on their four-game road trip, which also saw wins against the Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks, as well as a loss to the Houston Rockets.

Brooklyn is now 19-8 on the season, bringing them into first place in the Eastern Conference, where they lead the Milwaukee Bucks by 1.5 games. 

The Nets now return to Barclays Center, where they will face the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday.