With the Pistons on the second half of a back-to-back and the Nets missing Brook Lopez, both teams already had pre-baked excuses for why they didn’t bring their best effort. For three quarters, neither one mattered, as the Nets and Pistons played an exciting, hotly contested game, pitting Detroit’s athleticism and playmaking against Brooklyn’s touch in the paint.
The marquee matchup should’ve been Lopez vs. Andre Drummond, which is a fun stylistic juxtaposition of centers. But with Lopez’s undisclosed virus keeping him on the bench, the Nets needed to find other ways to combat Drummond’s mass and strength, and all things considered, rookie Willie Reed and ten-day contract recipient Henry Sims did a decent job limiting Drummond from an omnipresent night to merely a “damn good” one.
Naturally, the Nets fouled Drummond early and often. Reed actually left the game within four minutes with foul trouble, but his fouls were not in vain, as Drummond didn’t make a free throw in the first half. But that weakness didn’t matter much, because Drummond proved early he was a load to handle for the Nets’ defense. Drummond’s threat rolling in the paint and ability to run the floor alone created open looks on the perimeter when he wasn’t throwing down dunks of his own. The Nets just don’t have a player to combat Drummond at his apex.
The Nets’ bench has been their Achilles heel this season, as the team often lost early leads when their backups entered the game. It only got worse when Lopez, who said he wanted to play spoiler to the playoff-hunting Pistons, became a late scratch. But the team was able to tread water behind Sean Kilpatrick’s offense, Sims’s competence, and one of those nights from Shane Larkin when he can get out in transition and create havoc without losing control.
But it all fell apart in the fourth, when Nets Killer Anthony Tolliver* (Note: I am not aware of anyone ever calling him that) knocked down a couple of threes, the Nets began fouling people that weren’t Andre Drummond, and Drummond’s backup Aron Baynes set a few shattering screens to carve space for himself and others.
Before you could blink, a 77-77 game became a 102-85 blowout, and the Pistons could ride it out without much fanfare or resistance.
13 PTS, 3-6 FG, 6 REB, 2 BLK
Reed, who’s missed three of the last four games with a sore left knee and has wobbled in and out of Tony Brown’s rotation, was thrust into the starting lineup by an undisclosed virus to Brook Lopez.
Congrats, Willie Reed! You get to guard Andre Drummond.
Drummond is an at-the-rim physical beast who leads the league in rebounding on both ends but couldn’t hit a free throw if you gave him a hammer and pointed him towards a nail labeled “FREE THROW.” 54 players have a higher three-point percentage than Drummond’s 36.2% from the line, and if it holds, it would be the worst free throw percentage for a qualifying player in NBA history. Reed threw down some smart hacks early, even if they relegated him to the bench.
Given how hard Drummond is to guard, I think Reed actually did a better job on Drummond than his backup, Aron Baynes. Also liked how Reed worked inside the paint on offense, but he’s still prone to getting caught in the wrong position defensively and working to catch up.
24 PTS, 12-17 FG, 9 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 2 BLK
The ultimate “no-no-no-no-good shot” player. Young has such a slick ability to get into the lane for seemingly low-percentage shots and make them routine. One notable example came early in the third quarter, when Young barreled into the lane and flipped a shot over two defenders, and later in the third, when Young cupped the ball en route to a lanky layup. Those were four of his 14 points in Young’s big third quarter, and he kept it going in the fourth when few other Nets could create looks.
Of course, that’s an age-old adage about the NBA: would you rather be really good at hitting tough shots, or really good at creating easy ones? Young is certainly the first; in this Nets offense, nobody can be the second.
Early foul trouble knocked Young out in the first quarter, and Tony Brown elected to keep Young on the bench for most of the first half.
19 PTS, 7-16 FG, 3-7 3PT, 5 REB, 2 AST
Quieter game than we’ve been accustomed to this week. Heading into Saturday night, Bogdanovic had scored 70 points in 66 minutes over his last two games, hitting over 60 percent of his shots. It looked like that train might keep running at the outset, as Bogdanovic dropped 7 points before the halfway mark in the first quarter. But he then missed four straight shots, going scoreless the rest of the half.
Bogdanovic had one more “score-in-bunches” moment in the third quarter and hit a long three in the fourth after the game was well in hand, but a third straight big night wasn’t in the cards.
1 PTS, 0-3 FG
2 PTS, 1-4 FG, 5 REB, 2 AST
15 PTS, 5-8 FG, 2-2 3PT, 2 REB
Kilpatrick celebrated his multi-year contract exactly as you might expect: by getting buckets at rip-roaring speed from all over the floor. Kilpatrick dropped 12 points on just five shots and a pair of free throws in the first half, but struggled to recreate that magic in his second-half stint. Still, a successful debut for Kilpatrick as a player on a guaranteed deal.
10 PTS, 5-9 FG, 8 REB, 5 PF
With Brook Lopez sidelined by an undisclosed virus, Henry Sims was primed to make his Nets debut against the Pistons. He just did it a little earlier than expected. Two quick fouls on Willie Reed meant Sims entered fewer than four minutes into the game to guard Drummond, and he had a bit more success than you might expect, even nabbing a nifty steal late in the first quarter on an entry pass.
Sims made a couple smart plays inside on the offensive end and even hit a contested jumper. Not a bad way to spend your playing time on a ten-day contract.
11 PTS, 5-10 FG, 0-2 3PT, 5 AST, 1 TOV
Dialed it back from 200 MPH to 198 in stretches and it worked wonders.