It was never supposed to be that close, but the Nets eked out a win over the basement-dwelling Detroit Pistons for a much-needed win at Barclays Center.
The Nets were able to overcome a rough first half and outscored the Pistons 38-30 in the third quarter to help come away with the 130-123 win. Considering where the two teams entered the game in the standings, Brooklyn had been a sure-fire favorite to easily grab the W, but Detroit’s hot first-half shooting put the home side in scramble mode to try and make up ground.
It took an 11-0 run early in the third quarter to eliminate the 64-58 deficit that the Nets started the second half with. Kevin Durant scored 16 of his 41 points in the third and by the 9:19 mark they had taken a five-point lead after bruce Brown hit a 23-foot jumper from beyond the arc.
“We were more physical,” Nets coach Steve Nash said about the turnaround. “The first half we cut some corners. We were bodies and they could go where they wanted to go and it was easy.”
The win comes at a crucial time for the Nets, who need every victory they can muster down the stretch. The Nets had entered the game only a half-game ahead of the Charlotte Hornets, who defeated Brooklyn on Sunday, and trailed the seventh place Cleveland Cavaliers by three games.
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Tuesday marked the third time this season that Durant had scored 40-plus points in a game, as well as Kyrie Irving’s second game of the year at Barclays Center. The superstar guard finished the night with 24 points on 7-of-18 shooting from the field.
Bruce Brown had 15 points and hit all three shots from the three-point range that he took, while Andre Drummond had a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Nic Claxton and Seth Curry each had 11 points in the win.
“Just intensity. We didn’t allow them to get comfortable,” Drummond said about the Nets’ improvement in the second half. “Played the game we know we’re supposed to play and came out on top.”
He added: “We knew what we needed to do. We allowed them to get a rhythm early in the game and we came and watched film at halftime. We knew who was their guy and we knew who we needed to take out of the game. We made the right plays throughout the rest of the game.”
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The Nets were never able to push their lead to double digits in the second half and briefly fell back behind the Pistons early in the final frame. A Frank Jackson floater gave Detroit a 101-99 lead with 10:01 left in the fourth, but Goran Dragic answered back to tie at 101 and then Irving hit a three to put Brooklyn up by three.
But even as the Nets tried to widen the gap, Detroit stayed right there with them, tying the game at 108 off a shot from Cade Cunningham. However, it was Durant who broke the tie with a jump shot moments later and then knocked down a pair of free throws.
That didn’t stop Cunningham from keeping his side in the game all the way until the final moments, but a pair of free throws by Irving in the final minute helped secure the win.
“They’ve been playing solid the last two weeks though,” Kevin Durant said about the Pistons. “We don’t look at teams like that. We know their record isn’t good, but they still got pros over there and tonight they made shots. They started off the game by making six threes in the first quarter. That gives you a lot of confidence as a team and it’s good for us to go through periods like that.
“There’s going to be times in the playoffs with teams that get hot unexpectedly and see how we weather the storm. It’s a good test for us and I like it. No matter if we playing the Pistons or the Milwaukee Bucks, I think the situation we got better from and we evolved as the game went on. Regardless of the opponent.”
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The first 24 minutes of the night did not go as planned for Brooklyn, which had opened the game on an 8-2 run that featured back-to-back threes from Irving and Durant. The Pistons, which finished the first quarter alone shooting 6-of-10 from three-point range, charged back and by the 9:05 mark had pulled within one after Isaiah Stewart knocked down a stepback three.
The Pistons continued to hammer away at the Nets from the perimeter as Stewart, Saddiq Bey and Marvin Bagley III hit four straight shots from beyond the arc with 4:58 left in the first to take a 23-21 lead. The situation didn’t get much better in the second quarter as the three ball continued to drop for Detroit with the Pistons opening a 12 point lead with 7:58 remaining in the half thanks to Killian Hayes.
The Nets managed to cut it to a six-point deficit, but struggled to contain the Pistons’ offense which shot over 50% from the field and three-point range by the end of the first half.