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Nets and Pistons play double back-to-back at Barclays

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NBA: Detroit Pistons at New York Knicks Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

And in the end, the Nets won. Kenny Atkinson, in what appeared to be some tough love teaching moment, benched D’Angelo Russell midway through the first quarter, creating some controversy. Then, the Nets played some of their most physical ball of the season, took the Heat in overtime and won.

Three Nets, all 24 or younger, supplied double-doubles: Caris LeVert, 19 points and 12 rebounds; Rondae Hollis-Jefferson 20 points and 14 rebounds; and Spencer Dinwiddie, 12 points and 12 assists. The team’s youngest player, still three weeks away from his 20th birthday, had 12 points, three rebounds and two picturesque blocks.

The Nets have a roster imbalance, even without Jeremy Lin who returns to New York from Vancouver this week. There are worst problems to have in a rebuild.

So, it’s back to Barclays for Easter Sunday where the Detroit Pistons await. The Pistons beat the Knicks, 115-109, Saturday night at MSG. Detroit is barely holding on to its playoff hopes after their win. A Nets win and a Bucks loss to the Nuggets later Sunday and they’d be done.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. It’s an early start so tip off after 6.

Injuries

For the Nets, Isaiah Whitehead is likely out with a sprained right wrist. No word on how it happened or how long it will sideline him.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is questionable with a facial laceration suffered near the end of the Heat game.

Expect Jeremy Lin back in New York this week, not to play but to get check-ups and progress reports.

For the Pistons, Blake Griffin is out with a right ankle contusion. Whether he plays again this season is uncertain. He’ll be re-evaluated in a week. Jon Leuer has been out since November, with a severely sprained left ankle, undergoing surgery in January.

The game

A win Sunday and the Nets would have their first three-game winning streak of the season and first back-to-back sweep. The Pistons are looking for their fifth straight win and although it’s the second night of a back-to-back on the road, they spent Saturday night resting in a New York hotel while the Nets were flying back from Miami. Advantage: Detroit.

The Nets are playing what amounts to their best basketball of the season. They’re 4-3 over the last seven after losing 19 of 22. They have been playing unselfishly. For the second straight game Saturday, they had seven players in double-figures.

Sunday will mark the Nets third try at a three-game winning streak, Their last attempt came on March 21 when they blew a 23-point lead over the Hornets.

The Pistons have been a disappointment again this season. They have been troubled by inconsistency from Day 1. The last time they faced Brooklyn, on February 7, they were 27-26 and tied with the 76ers for the last playoff spot. They immediately collapsed, despite the addition of Griffin in a big deadline deal.

The Pistons dropped 13 of 16 from February 9 to March 17. That basically ended their season. They’ve tried to make a last ditch playoff push since then, going 6-1 and playing well, but they are alive only mathematically. Still, during the last seven games, Detroit is averaging 109.1 points, shooting 46.6 percent and getting 49.4 rebounds while limiting turnovers to 11.9 per game.

Player to Watch: Andre Drummond

Isn’t it always?

Drummond is averaging 15.3 points and 20 rebounds in three games against Brooklyn this season. He had a season-high 27 boards in Detroit’s win on February 7 and posted 22 and 20 in a 114-80 rout at Barclays Center on January. 10. In the Nets’ only win over the Pistons this season, a 101-100 buzzer beater in Detroit, Drummond got into early foul trouble and posted his weakest numbers of the season, 7 and 13, in 26 minutes. That was the game where Spencer Dinwiddie won it on a floater with time expiring.

The 24-year-old from nearby Mount Vernon had his 58th double-double of the season against the Knicks Saturday, 22 points and 17 rebounds. He recorded his league-best seventh 20-20 game with 24 and 23 rebounds in Thursday’s win over Washington. He is on a roll.

From the Vault

Jason Kidd made it to the Hall of Fame on Saturday and one of his greatest games came against the Pistons back in 2003, a 34 point, 12 rebound, 6 assist affair in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. It was the game that broke the Pistons back in the Nets four-game sweep, their ninth straight win out of 10.

Enjoy.

More reading: Detroit Bad Boys