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Nets wrap up road trip in Detroit

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Sacramento Kings v Detroit Pistons Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

It feels like I’ve been writing the same preview for weeks now, but I have no complaints. The Nets just keep on winning; their latest triumph wasn’t decided until the final buzzer, thanks to a Kyrie Irving dagger that had just about everything going for it. A smooth crossover leading to a three, a clean swish, even some epic photos that sum up Brooklyn’s vibes right now:

Obviously, this isn’t a perfect basketball team yet - Brooklyn couldn’t or, rather, chose not to close with the defensive star of the game (and their season), Nic Claxton, presumably due to offensive spacing concerns. Claxton + Ben Simmons line-ups still present their fair share of challenges to navigate, and, while Kyrie Irving did go off in the fourth quarter vs. Toronto, it sure wasn’t easy. Jacque Vaughn & co. are still figuring out what lineups work best when - there is no concrete five that the Nets can lean on in tough times.

But that’s the obligatory speed-bump paragraph. Brooklyn is 18-12, and few, if any, teams have been more impressive since Vaughn assumed the helm. Next up? A date with the Detroit Pistons, a floundering, young squad just one game out of pole position in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes.

Where to follow the game

We’ve got a slightly earlier start for this one, 6:00 p.m. ET. Consider it Sunday supper. YES

Network and the YES App have the telecast, and WFAN-FM has the radio call for this one, per usual.


We were so close to the first clean injury report of the 7/11 era! Ah, well. Patty Mills is out with a non-COVID illness, but every other Net is at full strength as they head into Detroit. With that being said, you won’t see Day’Ron Sharpe, David Duke Jr., or Kessler Edwards, as they're all at the G League Showcase in Las Vegas. In addition to being, well a showcase for G Leaguers, it is a gathering of NBA GMs and you know what happens when GMs get together.

In case you’ve missed the news, the Detroit Pistons will be without the main reason to watch a Detroit Pistons game for the rest of the season, as Cade Cunningham recovers from a gnarly shin injury. (Shinjury?) The only other Piston on the shelf is Isaiah Livers, out with a shoulder injury.

The game

Not much to say here. You know, the usual stuff: bad team, don’t fall asleep, make sure to box out, so on and so forth. It’s the NBA, so of course Detroit has capable players that can find themselves in a dogfight vs. anyone. Bojan Bogdanovic ran out of you-know-whats to give years ago, and playing for one of the league’s worst teams has only amplified that attitude. Not that that’s a detriment to Detroit, though; a Bogdanovic shot is nearly always their best option.

The Croatian ex-Net is shooting 43% from deep this year, with quite a few of them being unassisted. He’s also been lethal from the midrange; Basketball Reference has him at 50% from the Durant Kingdom on a steady diet. Keeping Bogey in check is defensive priority #1 for Brooklyn on Sunday. And yes, there’s only one Nets player left from when Brooklyn traded him for the Wizards first rounder back in 2017: Joe Harris. That pick became Jarrett Allen.

Ben Simmons, of course not on the Pistons, is another name to keep an eye on in Detroit. It’ll be the first time he’s playing on just one day of rest or fewer since re-injuring that left knee nearly a month ago. To see him explode towards the basket or wreak havoc on defense would be a welcome sight, a sight we got used to during his excellent stretch of play in November. We haven’t *quite* seen that form from the Aussie since his return. But as always, patience. And it’s not like there hasn’t been bright moments; Ben is an event-creator on defense, he gets into the ball-handler at the point of attack. When he’s right, his presence is felt, as it was on this possession vs. Toronto:

It would also be nice to see crisper execution for Brooklyn. I mentioned that their offensive process was jumbled, sluggish at times vs. Toronto, and although the Raptors identity is built around dragging you into the mud with them, Brooklyn poured some dirt on themselves as well. Where is Kyrie supposed to go here?

Let’s not nitpick too much, though. While it is necessary when analyzing a team with championship aspirations, the headline is that the Nets are hooping. Wins aren’t easy to come by in the NBA, as KD likes to correctly point out, but Brooklyn sure could have fooled me with a 9-1 record over their last 10.

I suppose this will be one of the shortest previews of the season, but not much more needs to be said. Go handle the Pistons. Keep Isaiah Stewart off the offensive glass, don’t let Jaden Ivey start feeling himself by providing easy lanes to the basket off of unsure or late switches. All easier said than done, of course, but Brooklyn is capable of handling this team. That being said, it’s too easy to envision a 112-109 Nets win where Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving each scrape 40 minutes and nearly as many turnovers. A loss would dampen the mood something serious. The Jets and Giants each have huge games in their respective playoff hunts on Sunday. Us multi-sport fans don’t need our weekends to be capped off by a day of total disappointment. A horrifying sentence it may be, but may the Nets save us.

From the Vault

Here’s Richard Jefferson talking about what he was thinking during his epic block of Chauncey Billups in the 2004 playoffs, an underrated play immediately overshadowed by Billups’ ridiculous half-court shot:

Visit our sister site, Detroit Bad Boys, for further reading.