After a heartbreaker against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday and a blowout at the hands of the Chicago Bulls on Monday, the Brooklyn Nets desperately needed to right the ship against the Detroit Pistons. Of course, the Andre Drummond-led Pistons were the only team the Nets defeated in their rollercoaster of a preseason, but would that translate in the rematch?
The Pistons, who are still without star guard Reggie Jackson, are expected to make the playoffs this season, but they ran right into a re-energized, hustling Nets unit.
Right from the get-go, the Pistons were caught flat-footed by Lin gliding by Ish Smith and Brook Lopez two-stepping in the paint. In fact, the Nets started off a perfect 9-9 from the field — including a Lopez three-pointer! — and they held an early 22-14 lead. While the Nets struggled to defend the lengthy Tobias Harris, Lopez’s game-high 14 points was enough to keep the home team up despite a quick Pistons run with the bench unit — Isaiah Whitehead, Joe Harris, Sean Kilpatrick, Luis Scola, and Justin Hamilton — on the floor.
To cap it all off, Lin beautifully slashed through the Pistons’ paint before dishing it off to Kilpatrick for the buzzer-beating layup. Who is this Nets team and what did they do with the team that played Chicago?
If the first quarter belonged to Lopez, the sequel was owned by Kilpatrick. The never-shy-shooter saw his first couple shots fall and decided to unconsciously fire at will. His 3-3 start from behind the arc fueled the Nets’ confidence so much that Lopez had to come back in and add his 3rd and 4th three-pointers just to stay ahead.
No, seriously, that’s not a typo — Brook Robert Lopez went 4-5 from three-point range in that first half.
We interrupt this Game 7 to announce that Brook Lopez has FOUR first half 3's. As many as he had in his entire career entering tonight.
— Ryan Ruocco (@RyanRuocco) November 3, 2016
The second half started off with the news that a strained hamstring would force Lin out for the game and the Pistons wasted no time rapidly making up the deficit against Whitehead and company. In fact, the Nets’ double-digit lead quickly evaporated to just 9 — but the message was clear: without Lin, the open looks would not come as easy.
And while Lopez helped to neutralize Drummond (6 points, 6 rebounds), Marcus Morris (23 points) and Tobias Harris (23 points, 4 rebounds) stepped up in his stead, keeping this game closer than it probably should have. However, with Lopez resting at 30 points, the bench weathered the storm and kept the Nets up by 11 heading into the final frame.
Following a silly scuffle between Whitehead, Booker, and the Pistons’ Aron Baynes, the Nets’ lead had suddenly shrunk to just 6 points with almost 10 minutes to play.
With Lopez suddenly cold and Lin on the bench, the Nets needed to invent some offense and, for a minute, it didn’t look like it would happen. Thankfully, Kilpatrick, doing his best Kobe Bryant impression this season, was ready to make it happen.
However, on what was Lopez’s night to shine, it was Trevor Booker who would save the game. With just 1:34 to go, Booker poked a ball away from behind and the Nets earned an extra possession. After the Nets promptly turned it over, Booker ran down the court like a madman and, like LeBron James in the NBA Finals, blocked Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s layup attempt off the backboard.
One offensive rebound from Booker later, the Nets’ second win of the season would be sealed.
Bless you, Brook.
Bless you, Sean.
Trevor Booker, please marry me.
The stats: 34 PTS, 12-21 FG, 4-8 3PT, 11 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 2 TOV
In their last previous games, Brook Lopez pulled down just 2 rebounds; Andre Drummond snagged 23 of them. This was never going to an ideal matchup for Lopez, but he’s fared decently against the Pistons in the past.
So, uh, then what should we call that performance?
Lopez started out a blistering 5-5 from the field and ended the first quarter with 14 points, even nailing 2 three-pointers in the process. When he’s cooking like this, there are few defensive players that can shut down said Brookie Monster.
Whether it was pivoting past Drummond or nailing 4 first half three-pointers, Lopez was in flames. Like meteor just entering the atmosphere hot — smoldering, even.
34 points, 12-21 FG, 29 minutes — enough said.