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Nets head to Detroit to face Pistons

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Detroit Pistons v Utah Jazz Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

The old bugaboos struck again. The shorthanded Brooklyn Nets hung tough against the Eastern Conference leading Philadelphia 76ers for a large portion of the game on Saturday night, but they started getting sloppy with the ball again, and when you go against elite teams, you get sloppy for a second and you’re screwed. Philly wound up pulling away and won by 16 points.

The opponent tonight will be the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons are at the bottom of the East standings, but there may be brighter days ahead. Like the Nets, they’ve been off since Saturday night. And just like Brooklyn, they lost, except they lost their game to the Los Angeles Lakers in double overtime. The loss was their fourth in a row.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. Tip off after 7:30.

Injuries

Kyrie Irving will be back after missing Saturday’s game with a finger injury. Nicolas Claxton, Iman Shumpert, and Spencer Dinwiddie are out. Kevin Durant is out due to COVID 19 protocols, and the league office still doesn’t have a good answer as to what the hell they’re doing. Such is life. Noah Vonleh is available.

Killian Hayes is out. Jahlil Okafor (#hesstillintheleague!) is out. Former Net Wayne Ellington missed Saturday’s game with a calf injury. No word on his status.

The game

We’re gonna start with some trade business. On Sunday afternoon, the Pistons traded former MVP Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks for Dennis Smith, Jr and a second round draft pick. For Rose, it’s another stint with the Knicks and a reunion with his former coach, Tom Thibodeau. For the Pistons, it’s a chance to evaluate a 23-year-old guard that hasn’t put it all together yet and is now on his third team. The Pistons don’t have anything to lose so taking a flyer on DSJ could pay dividends in the long term.

In more off the court news, the Nets have another new big man on the club. They signed Noah Vonleh to a contract and he’ll be available tonight. It feels like he’s been around for a long time, but he’s only 25 years old and is a low-risk, high-reward for a team that could use as much frontcourt help as they can get.

So what do we do about Blake Griffin? The former All Star has struggled and it looks like it’s the end of the line for him. Sean Corp of Detroit Bad Boys has more:

Blake is still doing all the things you’d want out of your highest-paid player — leading, setting an example, communicating, trying to get others involved. But he’s been mostly awful on the court. In some ways, that doesn’t matter to me because the Pistons are going to lose, and this season losses are pretty much the preferred outcome. On the other hand, he sucks up tons of minutes. So it comes down to his presence being a barrier to the development of others. At this point, I’m not concerned. I can live with a season of maximum Blake, all the while hoping that he can somehow turn it around.

But, man, does he look completely overpowered on offense. He can’t even take advantage of physical mismatches of even the smallest defenders anymore. It’s sad to see. And his defense is typically so bad the team is forced to hide him on lesser players, which does not really speak to positive developments team-wide on that end of the floor. In the end, I don’t want him bench or released (yet). I’ll just take what comes and root for him, because he deserves better than this.

Yeah man. It’s always tough to see great players on the decline and for Griffin, the hope is that he has enough to produce on the court and be something close to the player he was at his peak.

This one’s bound to be sloppy. Both teams are near the bottom of the league in turnover rate, so managing the ball will take on more importance than usual. The Nets are top five in pace and three point percentage while Detroit is bottom six in both categories. If the Nets play their style, they’ll have a chance to put this away. That’ll do wonders for them because they have to head home to face the Indiana Pacers Wednesday night.

James Harden should be raring to go for this one. Harden played a season low 29:46 on Saturday after playing close to 40 the night before. We’ve been talking for a while about the heavy minutes the big three have played, so a night where you keep his minutes low could help long term. Sometimes you have to take a short term L to get the long term W.

Player to watch: Jerami Grant

It pays to bet on yourself. The common belief this fall when Grant left the Denver Nuggets and came to Detroit was that Grant would struggle as the leading man on a team and not as part of the ensemble Denver has built. Grant’s offense game hasn’t slipped even as he’s taken on more responsibilities than he has ever had in his pro career. He’s scoring well in a variety of areas, getting to the free throw line a good amount, has stepped up his playmaking, and is keeping the turnovers low. Combine all that along with good defense and you have a player that should earn serious discussion about being named an All Star. It takes time for narratives to shift, so the more he keeps playing like this, the more opponents will respect him and his skill.

No Durant means Joe Harris will be starting at small forward for the Nets for at least another night. Like Harden, Harris’ minutes were on the low side on Saturday. Harris has done his job well even as he’s taken on different roles throughout the year. As for the Grant assignment, Jeff Green will get some time guarding him as well. Green has been a capable starting four and small ball five for the Nets and will look to help against the 6’10 Grant.

From the Vault

Happy belated birthday to Steve Nash

And Dilla forever

And happy belated birthdays to my dudes Matt Brooks and Anthony Puccio!

More reading: Detroit Bad Boys