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Nets overcome Pistons late-game comeback to win first game of six-game road trip, 96-90

Brooklyn Nets v Detroit Pistons Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images

It wasn’t the prettiest but it's a win ... and a game the Nets can take pride in defensively.

Brooklyn escaped Detroit, defeating the Pistons, 96-90. With the win, The Nets extend their winning streak to four games and improve to 6-3 on the young season, fourth in the East.

“I’m proud of the guys. We’re a small team for the most part and we fought. We fought together. We’ve improved defensively. I think our defense is ahead of our offense, which I don’t think anyone was predicting coming into the year,” said Steve Nash on the team. “That makes me happy and I think our guys can feel a sense of pride in each other that they are defending.”

After a stagnant first half, then a dominant third quarter that had them pile up 39 points on the way to building a 16-point cushion heading into the fourth, the Nets left Detroit to come all the way back and made it a game with three and a half minutes remaining (88-86).

And then the game-long chippiness turned into flared tempers. Blake Griffin — 13 points, five rebounds and two assists — and Isaiah Stewart had been playing physical and going at it throughout the contest. With 2:57 remaining, the two had to be separated and after an official review, double technicals were assessed.

“We love that Blake brings it and give us that physicality. He’s also a very intelligent player so he’s taking charges, fighting on the glass and understands our concepts defensively. I thought offensively tonight he helped us with some screening,” said Nash on Griffin’s impact in the win. “He made some threes and some rolls, finishes and just made a lot of hustle plays for us. He’s somebody that we’ve come to rely on and count on. I thought he was great tonight.”

After things settled down, the Nets defense held up and the ball went to Kevin Durant who answered with two midrange jumpers to put the Nets up 92-89 with 1:13 remaining. On the following possession, Griffin took his second charge of the game and followed it up with a big back tap off a rebound, leading to a Durant midrange dagger to put Brooklyn up 94-89 with 12.9 seconds remaining.

Griffin fouled Kelly Olynyk and the Piston big man connected on one free throw with no time off the clock to cut the Nets lead to 94-90. LaMarcus Aldridge — who delivered 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting overall — caught the inbound pass, got fouled and sealed the deal with two free throws.

“We finally started scoring the ball. In the first and third, we scored the ball super stagnant and careless. In the second and fourth, we built ourselves a nice lead fortunately but they had nothing to lose at that point,” said Nash on the victory. “They started getting comfortable and knocking down shots to go on a run. Fortunately, we got Kevin the ball in his spot a few times and we’re able to seal it.”

Durant finished with a double-double of 29 points on 12-of-27 shooting from the field and 10 rebounds to go with five assists in 37 minutes. He became the first player in team history to begin a season with nine straight games of 20 points or more.

James Harden finished with his 60th triple-double of his career and the 14th as a Net — 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in 36 minutes. Harden moved into seventh place all-time, passing Larry Bird. Brooklyn is 13-1 when Harden records a triple-double and is on a 12-game win streak in that category.

It was one of two milestones for Harden. With his seventh point, he passed Clyde Drexler (22,195) on the all-time scoring list, putting him at No. 32. The Nets now have three players in the NBA’s top 50. Durant ranks 26th and Aldridge 48th.

The Nets opened the contest with the starting lineup of Harden, Durant, Griffin, Joe Harris and Bruce Brown and forged a 7-0 run out of the gates. Detroit answered, taking advantage of the Nets' miscues and turnovers — three turnovers from Harden in a span of four possessions — and in early offense situations. Although Brooklyn left the door open, the Nets strung together a pair of threes to conclude the quarter with a slim 28-23 advantage.

It wasn’t the prettiest second quarter of Nets basketball. Brooklyn missed nine of their last 10 shots carrying over from the first and Detroit took their first lead of the night (29-28) off a mid-range jumper by Stewart with nine minutes remaining in the second. Both teams struggled to find a consistent rhythm offensively, but Detroit continued to thrive off Brooklyn’s offensive miscues.

The Pistons held the Nets to only 39 points at the half (39-39) shooting 32.5 percent from the field and 29.4 percent from three. While no Nets finished the half in double-figures, the ball movement resulted in 12 assists on the 13 made shots.

Brooklyn Nets v Detroit Pistons Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images

Then, the Nets woke up in the third with an offensive explosion.

Brooklyn opened the frame outscoring Detroit, 21-10 through the first six minutes, highlighted by a pair of threes from Harden and Durant’s midrange shooting touch. With Durant (21 points through three quarters) starting to score at ease, it opened up shots for his teammates.

Brooklyn Nets v Detroit Pistons Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images

Aldridge delivered a shooting punch off the bench. As the third quarter buzzer sounded, fans looked up and saw Brooklyn had tallied 39-point third quarter on a combined 15-of-19 shooting from the field to take a 78-62 lead heading into the final 12 minutes of action.

The 16-point lead was quickly trimmed to only nine points after the Pistons forged a 9-2 through the first three minutes of the fourth. Aldridge kept the ship afloat with a series of mid-range jumpers to boost the advantage back to double-digits. The Pistons raged back on a 12-2 run to cut the deficit to a single possession with just over three minutes remaining. Final score: Nets 96, Pistons 90.

The Pistons were led by Cade Cunningham with 17 points in 30 minutes followed by Kelly Olynyk with 14 points in 25 minutes off the bench. Detroit falls to 1-6 on the young season with the home loss.

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Best player in the world.

Kevin Durant wasn’t his sharpest, though he still shot 44.4% from the field. To put things into perspective, that’s the lowest shooting percentage he’s recorded in any game so far this year. Yes, the lowest. He’s sniping shots at 57% accuracy on the season.

“I just really think that I missed too many shots tonight. I felt like I got to my spots but I got to do a better job sticking on my fundamentals once we get there so we don’t even have to be in these possessions,” said Durant about his performance.

Even in a game when he didn’t have his best stuff, Durant put on his super-suit and carried his ballclub home. This one was by no means a classic, to put it kindly. Shots were missing front-rim, side-rim, and sometimes all together. Both ballclubs shot a combined 4-for-33 from deep in the first half. Neither team was able to break 40 points after the first two quarters. Kevin Durant’s heroics to close this one out rescued what was a largely forgettable Friday meetup. Bless him for that.

Here’s the man himself, a possible MVP candidate, just cooly launching a hanging floater with the game on the line. No big deal. Just a near 7-footer galloping down the lane doing guard stuff. Totally normal.

Then to close it out, Durant hit Isaiah Stewart with his fabled hesitation dribble before blowing by for the layup. Last season while coming off the Achilles injury, getting to the cup was a bit of an ask early into the year. Now, he’s turned that “weakness” (if we’re calling it that) into a strength. He’s seen his average number of drives rise from 8.4 last season to 10.0 so far this year, a big jump.

“We executed the sets very, very well by screening, our positioning, and our spacing,” said James Harden about the Nets’ performance down the stretch. “It gave Kevin room to do what he does.”

And when he does it like this, well, yeah, letting him do what he does sounds like the right call.

Nic Claxton remains on same timetable for ramp-up return

Nic Claxton, who is dealing with a “non-COVID illness,” not further described, missed his fifth game Friday night. Brooklyn assigned Claxton to their NBA G League affiliate, the Long Island Nets Friday morning and recalled 10 minutes before tip-off.

Prior to the game, Steve Nash said his young big is still on the same timetable for a return. The Nets head coach believes Claxton will be able to start “ramping up” within the two-week period.

“It’s not prolonged. I think we’re in that two-week period and we’ll see if it’s shorter or a day or two longer. I still feel like we’re in that range,” Nash said. “Somewhere in there, we should have Nic back to start ramping up again.”

As Sponge Bob might say...

What’s next

The Nets will travel up north to Toronto to take on the Raptors on Sunday, November 7. The game is scheduled to tip at 7:30 p.m. ET.

For a different perspective, check out Detroit Bad Boys — our sister site covering the Pistons.