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Nets look for payback against Pistons

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Minnesota Timberwolves v Oklahoma City Thunder Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images

Back to business. The Brooklyn Nets returned to action following the All-Star Break with a showcase game against the Boston Celtics on Thursday night at the Barclays Center. They started off slowly but found their rhythm and came away with a solid win in front of 1,400 home fans.

The opponent tonight will be the Detroit Pistons. It’s been another rough year for the team as they find themselves at the bottom of the East and in a deep rebuild mode. They started the second half of the season with a loss on the road against the Charlotte Hornets ... and a reported trade Friday night that would send Svi Mykhailiuk and the Houston Rockets’ 2027 second-round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Hamidou Diallo, the Queens native. The trade wasn’t official as of Saturday morning, so no word on whether Diallo will be available vs. Brooklyn.

Where to follow the game

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

Injuries

Kevin Durant and Spencer Dinwiddie are out. Blake Griffin won’t be going up against his old team. The Nets are trying to get him back into basketball shape. He hasn’t played in an NBA game for nearly a month. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot might be out again as well. He’s doubtful.

Jahlil Okafor is out after undergoing knee surgery. Killian Hayes is out with a rib injury. Dennis Smith Jr. is a late scratch, due to health and safety protocols.

The game

The Pistons won the first meeting in February. the season turning point for the Nets. Since then, they’ve won 11 of their last 12 games.

With Blake Griffin gone, that opens some up some salary cap flexibility for Troy Weaver and the Pistons front office to work with. More on that here.

Our friends in Detroit noticed something similar about their current Pistons team in comparison to the rebuilding Nets squads from a few years ago. I’ll let Christopher Daniels of Detroit Bad Boys explain:

This all went so much better than I could ever have imagined. Apart from Killian’s injury, the team is playing pretty much like my best case scenario heading into the season: a version of the Brooklyn Nets from a few seasons ago. That team played their asses off nightly but just didn’t have the mature talent to win games. And we are in an even better position over that Nets era because we actually have draft picks to benefit from the losing in the lottery.

Keep laying the groundwork and hope that you strike gold in the right year.

Sometimes, you take an L that causes you to change your entire act up. For Brooklyn, that was the loss against the Pistons. Since then, they’ve been the best team in the NBA as they’ve gone ___ since February 10. Elite teams have to bounce back after embarrassing losses and the Nets have been able to do just that. How well have they done?

Still, they’ll be looking to get some payback and all have said that they won’t be looking beyond this matchup.

Jerami Grant feasted on the Nets the first time he saw them, and hopes to do so again. The forward scored 32 points on 11-19 from the field with four made three pointers. He’s been struggling as of late due to a quad injury and the Pistons are hoping that the All Star break did him some good. There are some rumors that the Boston Celtics are trying to get him on their squad (where have we heard that one before?), but there’s no chance he goes anywhere.

Although the Nets haven’t forced many turnovers this year, the Pistons have been one of the sloppier teams taking care of the ball this year. The Pistons are 24th in turnover rate this year and now that they’re facing a Nets team fully in rhythm, they’re going to have to be incredibly diligent in taking care of the ball if they hope to pull off the upset tonight.

An old friend of ours will be playing center for the Pistons. It doesn’t feel like it, but Mason Plumlee has been in the NBA eight seasons now. Feels like two lifetimes ago when he was Kevin Garnett’s rook as a Net. Now that he’s in Detroit, he’s taken on his new role well. He’s started every game he’s appeared in this season and is averaging close to a double-double a night. He’s also been doing his fair share of playmaking as he’s been able to unlock that aspect of his game. Brooklyn will have to figure out what their big man rotation will look like once everyone is back healthy, but for now, the trio of DeAndre Jordan, Jeff Green, and Nicolas Claxton will man the middle for Steve Nash and friends. Each big brings something different to the table

Of all the Nets who started off rusty, James Harden might have been the rustiest. On the night, Harden turned it over seven times. However, six of them came in the first half as he was working to get his rhythm back. On the whole, he had a decent game but it wasn’t his MVP best. How good are you that a 22/10/8 line grades out as a B- game for you?

Player to watch: Hamidou Diallo?

We thought Dennis Smith would be a good player to watch tonight but alas, he’s out because of the league’s health and safety protocols. No doubt he was worthy, considering where the Pistons are in their rebuild.

When you’re rebuilding, it pays to take fliers on talented young players who haven’t reached their potential yet. Smith hasn’t lived up to his lottery pick potential, but he’s still only 23 years old and still has time to figure things out. Tricky thing about the NBA is with the league being so young, it takes certain guys longer to find their footing and have the environment they need to succeed. Maybe Detroit will be the place for DSJ?

Similarly, Diallo, the 6’5” wing, is worth taking a flyer on. He’s only 22. We don’t know yet if he’ll play Saturday after reportedly being traded to Detroit Friday night. We don’t yet know if he’s playing Saturday but do know he’s having a career year.

He scored 15 or more points in eight straight games from the end of January to the middle of February. Taken with a Nets second rounder in 2018, he was immediately sent to the Hornets in the Dwight Howard for Timofey Mozgov salary dump, then moved again that same night to OKC.

Because of his wingspan - 7’0” — and athleticism — he measured a 44” max vertical at the 2017 Draft Combine and won the 2019 Slam Dunk contest, Diallo can play bigger than his 6’5” height. Per the Detroit Free Press, Diallo is averaging career-highs in points (11.9 per game), rebounds (5.2), assists (2.4) and field goal percentage (48.1%) while taking more shots (9.3) and playing more minutes (23.8). His Player Efficiency Rating is 15.1 — right at league average.

So with Saddiq Bey, Smith and now Diallo, the Pistons are well along on the rebuild road. And in fact, only one player remains from last year’s roster.

On our side of the ball, Kyrie Irving will look to put on another show for the hometown faithful tonight. Irving was masterful on Thursday as his 40 points mixed in with dazzling moves, clutch baskets, and all around excellence powered Brooklyn to a signature victory. When he’s been on the court, Irving has been a stabilizing force for the Nets attack and as they continue to fit all the puzzle pieces together, his presence will be what keeps things humming.

From the Vault

We’re spending time with Detroit, so let’s pay Anita Baker a visit

More reading: Detroit Bad Boys