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Nets knock off Pistons, come up with biggest win of year, 103-75

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Detroit Pistons v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — The Brooklyn Nets haven’t been in a playoff race like this since the 2014-2015 season. This was the biggest game since the final game of that year and the biggest game of the Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson era. Period.

It was a packed house and loud with fans chanting, “Broooo-kklynn!” and “We want playoffs!”

They might just get that wish if they play the way they played on Monday.

The Nets did what they’ve been doing all season and that’s shock the NBA. It was a 103-75 final score as Brooklyn regained the sixth seed and improved to 36-33 on the season. They also snapped Detroit’s (34-32) five-game win streak and gained a second tiebreaker against a playoff contender. They secured one against the Magic in early February.

Now, they’ll head out on the seven-game road-trip with a ton of momentum, starting with their own four-game winning streak.

“Everything kind of aligned tonight,” Kenny Atkinson said. “I thought the game plan was good and the guys executed well especially defensively. We had more juice tonight.”

“This group surprised me, to be honest with you,” the head coach admitted. “They’ve played above expectations. So yeah, it’s a good feeling, but now it’s a nervous and an anxious feeling, because now we’ve got this new goal, this new thing with the playoffs.”

The win was big or maybe even bigger than big, Atkinson’s players said.

“It’s huge,” said Jarrett Allen. “It was a huge win tonight. It was another step form all our other games. WE knew we had to bring a certain physicality against Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin, so we had to turn it up a bit.”

You couldn’t have asked for a better first half (and game) from the Nets. They trailed 4-0 to start the game and that was it.

They took an eight-point lead after the first quarter, but they really turned on the jets and routed the Pistons with a 34-16 advantage in the second quarter.

The Nets were more physical, more energetic than the Pistons and played their style of ball.

They led by 26 at half behind a huge offensive effort from Rodions Kurucs and Spencer Dinwiddie. Kurucs was 6-of-6 with three steals and four fastbreak dunks. The best part? Following his fourth dunk of the half, Rodi looked at his bench as they did their usual celebratory dance.

The crowd was on its feet as they chanted, “Brooooo-kkkklynnn!”

“Great job,” D’Angelo Russell said of Kurucs post-game. “He got the crowd involved and got us following his lead with his creativity and energy,”

Defensively, Blake Griffin missed his first seven of eight shots, turned the ball over three times, while Andre Drummond was a minus-27 in the half. Following a Jarrett Allen dunk, the Nets went up 20, capping off a 17-4 extended run.

It was all fun in Brooklyn. Ask Dinwiddie.

“Kenny [is] Coach of the Year, D’Angelo Most Improved, Joe Harris three-point champion, AC -- it depends if he’s Allen or AC -- when he’s AC he’s the third-best shooter, when he’s Allen he’s regular.”

Detroit never got it within single digits and barely brought it within 20. The Nets continued to play team basketball and it paid off. Perhaps the biggest key of the night was containing Detroit’s bigs.

The Nets have gotten killed by opposing bigs this season, but Monday was a little different. Drummond finished with 13 points and 20 rebounds but shot just 5-of-14 and was a minus-27 on the night. Griffin finished the night 1-of-10 from the field with a minus-20. Overall, the Nets bench outscored the Pistons’ starters.

The Nets took advantage of the Pistons, who played the second night of a back-to-back. They contained them to just 27 percent shooting and 23 percent from three. They even out-rebounded the Pistons despite playing small-ball. The 75 points were the fewest allowed by a Nets team in five years.

The Nets shot 50 percent from the field and 35.5 percent from three. The entire starting lineup finished in double figures, but it was Dinwiddie (19 points) who led the way... for the third straight game. Allen Crabbe recorded his first career double double with 14 points, shooting 4-of-6 from deep, and a career-high 10 rebounds. Kurucs finished with 13 points, two rebounds, an assist and three steals, each of which resulted in a big finish.

The only discouraging moment that came in the first half when DeMarre Carroll, hyperextended his left knee. Still beating a team that’s just ahead of you in the playoff race is a big deal.

“It’s the teams you’re directly fighting with… those mean more,” Spencer Dinwiddie said recently. And that’s why this was so important. The Nets are in the midst of a playoff race with a half game separating them and the Pistons.

With the seven-game road-trip coming up and the Nets on a four-game win streak, it’ll be crucial they keep their heads above water.

When they come back home on March 30, will they still be in the playoffs? Of course, anything can happen, but they’re going to enjoy this one while they can.

POST-GAME AUDIO HERE.

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PLAYOFF RACE

The Nets entered Monday night trailing the six-seed Detroit Pistons by .008 of one percent... and a half game. They stood three games ahead of Miami for the seven seed and four games ahead of the Orlando Magic. The only result you need to know is the one that came from this game, but there were others, the biggest being the Rockets win over the Hornets.

So at the end of the day, the Nets have a half game lead on the Pistons —- and the tiebreaker; a three-and-a-half game lead over the Heat; a four-and-a-half-game lead over the Magic —and the tiebreaker; and a five-game lead over the Hornets.

As Brooklyn (Sheepshead Bay) native Larry David might say, pretty, pretty good.

COMING UP...

Here’s an outline of Brooklyn’s final stretch.

  • 13 games left — 11-of-13 against teams above .500
  • Seven-game, 16-day road-trip starting in OKC (the Nets lone appearance on ESPN this season) and ending in Philadelphia
  • The Nets are 4-5 against teams on the trip
  • They’re 15-17 on the road, and
  • 10-18 against teams that are .500 or better

Nobody said it would be easy. More here.

DINWIDDIE KICKS

RODI DOESN’T TAKE ANY YOU-KNOW-WHAT

The Nets are now 22-11 record with Rodions Kurucs in the starting lineup. The 40th pick in last year’s draft has become something special — the tough, tenacious four the Nets sought for so long.

The Nets have been effusive on their Latvian surprise.

Kenny Atkinson on Rodi:

“I don’t know what neighborhood he grew up in in Latvia, but that’s a tough neighborhood. That’s a tough dude... He might not look the part, looks like a good-looking choirboy, but him and (Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins) were going at it the whole game and he doesn’t back down from anybody. That’s Rodi from Day 1. No fear.”

Spencer Dinwiddie kept it simple:

“Rodi ain’t no punk.”

No he ain’t.

***

Next up: The first leg of the seven-game road trip starts in OKC, 7:00 p.m. ET

For a different perspective, head on over to Detroit Bad Boys, our Pistons sister site on BS Nation.