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Nets begin road trip in Detroit vs. Pistons

Orlando Magic v Detroit Pistons Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

When you leave home, leave in style. The Brooklyn Nets broke out their city edition jerseys x court on an ESPN game against the Atlanta Hawks, and they put on a show. Brooklyn played an excellent game on both sides of the ball and had their best win of the young season to close out the six game homestand. They’ll be on the road for the next two weeks so that was a beautiful way to say goodbye to the hometown crowd.

The opponent to begin this six game adventure will be the Detroit Pistons. Duane Casey’s guys are off to a rough start as they continue their rebuild. They hung in for three quarters last night against the Philadelphia 76ers, but Philly put together a dominant fourth quarter and won by 11 points.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN on radio. Tip after 7.

Injuries

Nicolas Claxton is still out with a still undisclosed illness. Cam Thomas, Day’ron Sharpe, Kessler Edwards, and David Duke Jr. are on assignment in the G-League so they’ll be in Long Island getting some work in there.

Killian Hayes injured his thumb last night, but he did return to last night’s action.

The game

Brooklyn won the first meeting on Sunday. And just like last Sunday, the Pistons are on night two of a back-to-back against the Nets. At least this time, they didn’t have to travel.

On the halftime broadcast of Wednesday’s game, ESPN’s Michael Wilbon mentioned that he felt James Harden wasn’t playing aggressively enough. Sure his field goal attempts aren’t where it was when he was the main offensive option. He drove to the basket a ton and was deliberate in setting his teammates up to the tune of 11 assists to only three turnovers. We have to be careful to not just look at FGAs to determine if a player is aggressive and assertive. In the post-game, Harden mentioned he’s feeling more and more like himself by the day. That’s a great sign for Brooklyn and danger for the rest of the NBA.

Not everyone is as sanguine as Wilbon, however. Jake Fisher of Bleacher Report writes there are some in the NBA who wonder if Harden is at the beginning of a slide to the status of a “secondary All-Star.”

Harden’s slow start has drawn the attention of skeptical league personnel who wonder whether this is the beginning of the perennial MVP candidate’s decline into more of a secondary All-Star.

Other observers believe Harden’s conditioning is the main factor in his depressed stats. He did flash a bouncier performance in Sunday’s victory over the Pistons, hanging an easy 18-point triple-double on only nine shots, including 4-of-7 from distance. And on Wednesday, he knocked down five of his 11 attempts from deep against the Hawks.

The Nets, it should be noted, do not feel that way. In fact, they feel that Harden, even more so than Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, will retain his superstar status over the long-term mainly because unlike his teammates, he is not so dependent on athleticism. His game is more cerebral.

This will be the first time the Nets get to see Cade Cunningham. The top pick from the 2021 Draft had his season delayed thanks to an ankle injury in camp, but he’s here now and getting to work. The shot isn’t there yet as he’s only shooting 18 percent from the field and 1/21 from downtown, but coach Casey isn’t worrying about it. He got more work running the offense last night and so far, that part of his game has shown up to the party.

On Thursday, Cunningham had his best game so far. Cunningham finished 4-of-17 from the field but had his first double-double with 18 points, 11 rebounds and four assists.

One thing the Nets have to be mindful of is a letdown. They’ve got a tough back-to-back awaiting them after this so they have to make sure they don’t overlook a young team that has gotten off to a cold start. If you let your guard down, you’ll get caught slipping and take an L you otherwise shouldn’t.

Brooklyn feasted from deep on Wednesday night, going 22/48 from deep. The Pistons recently had one of the worst 3-point shooting games in NBA history and are dead last in 3-point percentage, only making 27.2 percent of their shots. If the Pistons are still cold from deep, it will severely limit their chances of pulling off the upset.

In a great story for Sports Illustrated asked Kevin Durant about how he sees the need to balance scoring and passing, and here’s how KD responded:

“The game has slowed down. I kind of know what I want to do out there. For the most part it’s just knowing the game, studying the game for these last 15 years … at a different level, and I’m able to adjust to certain situations. I’ve gotta keep growing, keep learning, keep being a student.”

The man’s a one of one. That means none before him, none to come.

Player to watch: Saddiq Bey

In an alternate universe, Bey would’ve remained a Net and Bruce Brown (and Landry Shamet) would not have come to Brooklyn. As such, the second year player out of Villanova has gotten off to a good start in his pro career. He’s a little bit more involved in the offense this year, but like most of his other teammates, has been cold from the field. We’ll see if he can bust out of his recent slump tonight.

Joe Harris had his best game of the season on Wednesday and is looking to keep the party going. Aside from going 6-8 from downtown, he grabbed six rebounds and played really solid defense against Bogdanovic and the other Hawks. It looks as if Harris has regained his confidence after an ugly start to the season, and if he’s able to stay hot from deep and keep contributing all over the court, then it will open everything up for Brooklyn.

From the Vault

For a variety of reasons, Isiah Thomas doesn’t get enough mention when discuss the top, top, top tier of all time basketball greats. Big mistake.

More reading: Detroit Bad Boys