In an homage to Kobe Bryant’s retirement announcement, the Nets and Pistons collaborated to play as well as he has this season.
Hook shots flew feet from the basket. Three-pointers clanked off the backboard. Each team, again and again, threw away careless turnovers and took ill-advised turnaround jump shots. Even made shots seemed accidental. If the Golden State Warriors represent the apex of basketball’s potential, Nets-Pistons was the nadir, an exhibition in front of a sparse crowd that looked more like a preseason game.
Things began to shift in the fourth quarter, in a way that it hasn’t yet this season. Brook Lopez began cooking, hitting with three straight mid-range shots (a floater, a jump hook, and a turnaround). Shane Larkin provided some big plays off the bench, and Jarrett Jack hit two free throws with 14.9 seconds left after securing a rebound.
This isn’t nothing. The Nets have struggled to execute down the stretch this season, losing eight games in which they were ahead, tied, or within a basket during the fourth quarter. This wasn’t a perfect process, as the Pistons missed a few shots that could have swung the final margin.
Nonetheless, this was the embodiment of “a win’s a win.” The Nets needed this one, and they got it.
Drummond is not a good matchup for Lopez, and Lopez couldn’t seem to get any offense going, whether it was in pick-and-rolls, pick-and-pops, or in the post.
To his credit, he passed the ball well and willingly, and put in a solid effort defending the inside against a talented, athletic big man in Drummond. But other than a few quick hits midway through the fourth quarter, a rough night on the offensive end.