"A win is a win". Something heard a lot in the Nets community as of late, after their two straight victories over the 76ers and depleted Spurs squad. I use the quote, because they weren’t exactly the prettiest victories, but they got the job done. Tonight, Brooklyn was ready to continue their success in 2014, when they faced off against the struggling, yet talented: Detroit Pistons. Between their athleticism and dominant frontcourt, the Nets knew from earlier matchups that this wouldn’t be an easy task.
If there is a game on the schedule that the Nets "small" lineup hurts them, it's against the Pistons. With Andray Blatche starting in place for Kevin Garnett, the Nets lacked depth at the center position. Rebounding against the line of Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe would be a tough task all night. It all turned out t be true as the Pistons dominated the boards and the Nets, winning 111-95.
Deron Willams and Andray Blatche got the Nets going early, scoring the teams first 10 of 12 points, while the rest of the starters started just 1-6 from the field. As expected, big man Andre Drummond got off to a dominant start on the boards -- grabbing 7 rebounds in just 8 minutes of play. He also chipped in a quick six points to contribute to the Pistons lead. The Nets struggled all quarter long, showing a lot of weaknesses on offense, while displaying no defensive intensity. Oh yeah, and they were out-rebounded 21-8, questioning the decision to sit Kevin Garnett. This looked like it would be a long night for them, as they trailed 30-17 after one.
It took only one minute for this game to turn from bad to worse. After a quick bucket by the Pistons, they forced a turnover leading to an and-one and a flagrant foul on Mirza Teletovic. Josh Smith knocked down one of two, then off the possession, yet another offensive rebound led to a Pistons basket. It was a 7-0 run in no time. Brooklyn looked nonchalant and uninterested, as they found themselves down 41-21 with 8 minutes to go in the half.
Despite the Pistons 20-3 early run, the Nets came out of a timeout in the midst of a 9-2 run. The Nets cut the lead to just 13, when the Pistons converted on three easy field goals along with two free throws, bringing the lead back up to 20. The pistons answered the Nets 9-2 mentioned above, with their own 9-0 run. With three minutes remaining in the half, the Nets had just two assists, shooting just 28% from the field. The Pistons had 15 assists, while shooting 61%.
Quick stat: The Nets were just 4-18 from behind the perimeter, while getting out rebounded 33-20. Josh Smith led all scorers with 17 points, while Andre Drummond really the star of the half, craving a double-double with 8 points and 11 rebounds. After 24 minutes of play the Nets trailed the Pistons 67-44. Is there a more dramatic word for ugly?
Second chance... Third chance... Fourth chance opportunities. Just like the first half, the offensive rebounds were killing the Nets. The guys in black did not show up for tonight's game. The 23 point deficit turned into a 29 point hole in a matter of five minutes. The pistons owned an 84-55 lead with 19 minutes remaining in this game. All of their starters were in double figures. For the Nets, only two were in double digits. Suddenly, this Nets team looked identical to the one we watched in December. Tired, heartless, and unmotivated.
It didn't take long for Kidd to pull the starters in this one. With 7:28 remaining in the third quarter, the entire bench was unleashed as a desperate call for some type of heart and energy. The Pistons continued to toy with the Nets, but fortunately the Nets bench played with a little bit of energy. Jason Terry caught fire, saving the Nets some embarrassment in the third quarter. He scored the Nets last 12 points of the quarter, finding themselves down 96-73. Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith led the way with 23 points after three quarters of play. Andre Drummond dominated the glass with 16 rebounds. The fourth quarter would be a matter of pride.
From a coach's point of view, heart is all you can ask for when you're down 29. The bench was called on, and they found themselves in the midst of a 15-4 run behind Jason Terry. They cut the lead to 14 with four minutes remaining. Hey, no matter the result, at least "they battled" (cue Avery Johnson picture). Although we haven't seen much of Reggie Evans of late, he made an impact off the bench. In his first 16 minutes of time, Evans had 10 points and 7 rebounds.
The Nets found themselves down 10 with two minutes remaining. They held the Pistons to just 8 fourth quarter points through 10 minutes of play. The bench eventually got it within single digits! Unfortunately for Brooklyn, time wasn't on their side. After a first half full of disappointment, Coach Kidd made a bold move to pull his starters, which proved to be a smart move. Mason Plumlee finished with 13 points and 8 rebounds. Jason Terry finally looked smooth-- leading the Nets with 18 points in just 24 minutes. Despite a great fourth quarter effort, the Nets would go on to lose 111-95 behind Brandon Jennings lead. Jennings had a stat line to remember: 26 points-10 rebounds-9 assists.
After the game, Paul Pierce questioned the Nets resolve.
"It puzzles me," Pierce said. "We had an opportunity to move up in the standings. We take a couple steps forward and then a couple steps back. Tonight was definitely a step back. We can’t use it as an excuse that we didn’t have KG out there. We have to be ready from the jump. We have to be ready to play. There was just a lot of mental breakdowns. I don’t know if that comes from traveling or a back-to-back, but good teams don’t have those problems."
The Nets welcome the New Orleans Pelicans to Brooklyn this Sunday at 6:00 PM
For more; see: Detroit Bad Boys