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KD-less Nets suffer third straight loss, falling to Pistons, 122-111

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Brooklyn Nets v Detroit Pistons Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

How many ways was this loss ugly? Let us count the ways.

The Detroit Pistons handed the Brooklyn Nets their third straight loss, 122-111. With the loss, Brooklyn falls to 14-12 on the season and are now 7-11 against under .500 teams while Detroit improves to 6-18 on the season. This was the first time Brooklyn lost three straight games this season.

The loss put into boldface trio of the Nets worst habits ... and much more: poor defense, turnovers, constant struggles to overcome heavy deficits (caused by that defense and those turnovers, and seemingly taking under-.500 teams for granted.

“My message was personal pride, connectivity, coming together, and just resistance,” Nash said about his message to the Nets after the loss. “We can’t start the game down 10, be down 20 in the second half, and expecting it to come easy. This is professional sports. The other team is talented, capable, and we are short-handed and small but we got to come out there extremely sharp, extremely competitive, and with real fire. It took us getting down 20 to find that fire.”

The Nets defense was exposed and in disarray against the Pistons, who are dead last in the league in field goal percentage. The Pistons piled up 38 first-quarter points, which included a 13-0 run after a short 3-0 Nets lead - the most Detroit has scored in the first all season. After trailing by 20 points in the second, Brooklyn was able to cut the deficit to nine at the half.

In fact, the 122 points were the most points scored by the Pistons this season ... other than the 129 points they scored two nights earlier ... in a double overtime to the Lakers.

Brooklyn did clean up their play in the third but struggled to find consistent stops defensively. Nets were able to cut the deficit to two but the Pistons, led by Jerami Grant, continued to capitalize off switching and doing the little things, ending the third with an eight-point lead, one better than their halftime deficit.

As things began to look promising, it turned ugly and the energy vanished. The Pistons continued to dance around the Nets defense ballooning their lead in the closing minutes as Brooklyn’s offense went cold in the final 12 minutes of play.

James Harden led the Nets in scoring as he finished with a double-double of 24 points and 12 assists to go along with six rebounds in 39 minutes. Harden leads the NBA in point/assist double-double’s this season with 15. According to ESPN Stats, Harden has recorded 10+ assists in six straight games, the longest streak by a Nets player since Jason Kidd in 2002.

Kyrie Irving, who appeared to favor his right hand —he missed the last game with an injury to right index finger — throughout the second half, finished with 27 points, seven assists, and two rebounds in 35 minutes of play.

One of the few bright spots was Bruce Brown was the difference-maker for the Nets in the third. Brown, a former Piston, provided the Nets with much-needed energy on both ends of the floor, especially on second-chance opportunities. He finished with eight points and nine rebounds, five of them offensive.

Other than Irving and Harden, only two players, Landry Shamet and Jeff Green finished in double figures and both of them finished with 10 points. Stagnant offense much?

As a team, Brooklyn finished the loss shooting 50.0 percent overall and 35.5 percent from deep to go along with 15 turnovers. Nets are now 2-4 in the first games of back-to-backs.

As for Detroit, Jerami Grant scored 32 points in 37 minutes of play followed by Delon Wright with 22 points in 36 minutes. Detroit finished the shooting 56.0 percent overall and 44.8 percent from deep.

Kyrie Irving: ‘We are the team that is literally battling against so many odds.’

Following Monday’s tough loss to the Detroit Pistons, Kyrie Irving spoke —okay, went off— about how the Nets look “average” as they continue to build and develop schemes and connectivity “on the fly.” Irving says the Nets should be dominating with the talent, along with various other attributes many players present but will have to continue to battle through the rough stretch.

“I don’t think we go out every single day of our lives and sacrifice the time in order to be average at anything,” Irving said following the loss. “I know no one here on this call wakes up to be average at anything they do. We look very average. We have the talent that the eye test presents that we should be dominating. We have the experience in terms of some of our guys been through certain things and circumstances to be able to battle through. We are dealing with a lot of the reality of putting this together on the fly.

Irving continued his commentary arguing that the Nets are a team battling lot of odds ... even if they have three of the league’s best players.

From the NBA scheduling to Kevin Durant’s latest health and safety protocol situation, the Nets superstar laid it all out. In the end, they’ll be the team we all expected them to be, said Irving.

“We are the team the NBA put the most games on. We are the team that gets someone taken out for COVID during the games. We are the team that has to deal with refs. We are the team that is literally battling against so many odds that at this point, is not even a reason to comment on it anymore. They are what they are and as a warrior that I am and the energy that I have, alongside my teammates, we just have to turn that corner. We haven’t done it yet but we will. I’m telling you that the league will be on notice when that happens so just got to take it day by day.”

As for the loss itself, there is no secret the Nets have a recurring problem when it comes to falling behind big early and playing catchup. Irving says that is not the way to play the game and the Nets need to dominate both ends of the floor while putting extra emphasis on the defensive end.

“Just coming out aggressive and making them feel us. Other teams come out very comfortable against us and that’s kind of the feel for the rest of the game is that we are playing catch up. It is not the way to play as a competitor,” Irving said on the loss. “It’s always down and I know we got the talent to come back but it is just not the way to play. We want to dominate on both ends of the floor, especially on the defensive end to make them uncomfortable so that way we put ourselves in a better position. It’s just starting off the game better.

When asked about his hurt right index finger, Irving admitted that it “sucks.” He said he doesn’t want to make any excuses but wants to continue playing. The Nets are already missing players and will deal with the pain later.

“It sucks man. Shooting very well in the season and I want to continue. You just have different hiccups that happen, especially on my shooting hand. It’s uncomfortable but at the same time, I don’t want to make any excuses,” Irving said. “I come out there, put myself out there, and do a lot of treatment on it. We are down a few players obviously as well so you just want to go out there and compete and worry about the pain later but I am doing the best I can.”

Now, let’s dive into some film. There’s a lot there!

Film Stuff

So. The Nets are an off/off-switch team. That, I think, is a good place to start. Though Kyrie Irving has pushed back on the notion previously, there’s enough of a sample now to confidently call this group a team that plays down (or up!) to its competition.

This was a BAD DeAndre Jordan game. Poor commitment to boxing out. Sluggish footwork. At many times, the 32-year-old failed to keep his hands raised (which is like, basic basketball stuff) while guarding inside. James Harden lost his cool with Jordan at least once. Steve Nash gave Brooklyn’s starting center a pep-talk on the bench. It was ugly. Jordan’s the veteran of the team; he needs to be better than this.

Fortunately, during the post-game presser, DeAndre took ownership over his lapses on defense and pledged to be better going forward.

“I mean, shit, gotta be better for us defensively,” Jordan said. “We all have to be better. But I just take a little bit more ownership on that side of the ball because I feel like that is, you know, a thing that I love and a big part of why I’ve been coming out there for us.”

Apparently James Harden agrees. YES Network cameras caught Harden giving Jordan a bit of business not long afterwards.

So... about that spirited conversation between DJ and Harden

The Nets kicked this game off in abysmal fashion, getting outscored 13-3 in the first three minutes of play. That early head-start was all the Pistons need to never fall behind for the entirety of the 48 minutes of play.

During that tough (to watch) first quarter, James Harden and DeAndre Jordan got into (as Ryan Ruocco so eloquently put it) an “animated” conversation on the bench, likely about defensive rotations.

“I don’t even remember it. We talk so much during the game,” said DeAndre when questioned about this specific moment during the post-game presser. “But yeah, we have conversations about defense, offense, spacing, communication. Whatever we’re talking about is for the success of our team.”

Well then. Nothing to see here, I guess.

What’s the scoop with Vonleh?

Noah Vonleh joined the group just 24 short hours ago after being cut from the Chicago Bulls roster during the preseason following a positive COVID-19 test. If you missed it, we put together a scouting report on Vonleh, which can be read here.

Nash seemed tentative with just throwing the guy out there —as he has with other newly signed free agents— and hoping for the best. After all, Vonleh hasn’t had many, if any opportunities to participate in group basketball activities since December’s training camp.

“It’s tricky,” Nash explained. “With the COVID scenario, when you’re at home, you can do a little bit of workouts. There’s not a lot of runs going on for you to be in great shape. So I think it’s another one, ‘try and get him to him in a position where he can safely take the floor and survive the demands.’ So, well see.”

That’s not to say that Nash isn’t excited about what he’s got in the 25-year-old big man. Coach Nash’s personal scouting report certainly expressed some optimism for Vonleh claiming rotation minutes in the times ahead.

“His history, I think, is a guy that can rebound, physical 4/5 who can be a little versatile at the 5-position. Can make a three but is a little more dynamic around the basket as an undersized five. That’s, I think, is an opportunity for him to give us a little diversity there.”

Vonleh saw the floor in garbage time minutes against Detroit, recording a rebound and a secondary assist. Perhaps those will turn into more normal rotation minutes going forward.

Iman Shumpert out 1-2 weeks with left hamstring strain

Prior to Tuesday’s game against the Detroit Pistons, Steve Nash said Iman Shumpert will likely miss one to two weeks with a left hamstring strain. Nash says Shumpert hurt his left hamstring during a workout to get himself in game shape. Shumpert hasn’t played in an NBA games since early January 2020.

“I am not exactly sure but during one of his workouts, he did something to it and I think it will take a little bit of time. I don’t know if I have a date for you but I think a week or two is fair to say,” Nash said. “We will monitor the situation so not a ton to report there but let's not hope obviously it won’t keep him out long so he can get himself in shape. He was at the stage of getting himself in shape and to have a setback like that, he’s still got to get himself in shape when he is healthy again. We are hopeful it’s not so bad so he can get his rhythm and fitness back.”

Problem is that the Nets have to make a decision on whether to keep Shumpert by February 24, which is two weeks from Wednesday. (The same applies to Noah Vonleh, Norvel Pelle, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Chris Chiozza.)

The Nets are no stranger to hamstring injuries and their severity. Back in the bubble, Jamal Crawford suffered a left hamstring injury in his first game back in over a year and was ruled out for the remainder of the Nets regular season - playoff run. He hasn’t played since.

Or as Sponge Bob might say...

Per Will Hanley

What’s next

The Nets will be back in action Wednesday when the team travels back to the Barclays Center to host the Indiana Pacers for the second leg of their sixth back-to-back of the first half of the regular season. Meanwhile, in Orlando, the Long Island Nets will open the shortened G League season against the Iowa Wolves. We previewed their season earlier Tuesday.

For a different perspective, check out Detroit Bad Boys - our Pistons sister site on SB Nation.