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Brooklyn Nets close in on clinching 6th seed with win over the Pistons, 123-108

The Brooklyn Nets gave us all a good scare by almost going into Detroit and losing to the Pistons.

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Detroit Pistons Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Brooklyn Nets could launch their own cinematic universe with the amount of horror stories they’ve seen play out over the past 15 years. Looking back on their sour trades and untimely injuries can be like sitting down for a marathon of The Conjuring movies. A loss to the Wembanyama-hunting Detroit Pistons in a must-win game tonight would have surely added to that.

While the Nets queued up a serious third quarter jump scare, a “fun for the whole family” motion picture eventually unfolded. The Nets stomped all over the Eastern Conference’s doormat, taking down the Pistons 123-108 via yet another full-team effort.

The Nets wasted no time slamming their feet on the gas in the motor city. Joe Harris got the party started, turning up the three point sliders to spray the Pistons from deep with six made triples in the first period. That tally resulted in tie for the most by a Net during a single quarter this season.

All the while, Detroit managed to hang in Brooklyn’s rear view mirror. They put up 34 points to hang tight with Brooklyn’s 47 after the first — the fourth most for a period by the Nets in franchise history.

“Defensively they help a lot,” explained Bridges after the game. “Just understand that, Spence reading it, getting open looks, and just one more extra pass. So when they over extend, you know, we get good looks.”

While the Nets kept up their pace in the second period, Detroit pumped the brakes. Thanks to some solid defensive sequences from Nic Claxton, including back-to-back plays where he educated James Wiseman on what happens when you try to take him one on one, Detroit’s went from shooting 60.8% in the first to 40.9% in the second.

The Nets consequentially stormed into halftime with a 74-57 advantage. Their passing above all else helped them get there, notching 22 assists on 27 made field goals through that point.

Now comes the jump scare.

A few Nets turnovers early in the third period allowed the Pistons to creep back into the game. Brooklyn’s lead remained in double digit territory through the period’s first few minutes but as Detroit started to chip away the pressure began to build.

It then boiled over thanks to an RJ Hampton explosion. The Detroit swingman reeled in 18 points during the third quarter alone. The loudest came on a three-pointer several feet from beyond the arc to cut Brooklyn’s once mammoth lead to just four points with just under a minute to play period.

The final frame saw both teams exchange blows early on as the Nets aimed to keep Detroit at arms length. Jaden Ivey returned to the game after banging knees with Joe Harris earlier and made things especially difficult. Slicing and dicing the Nets almost all night, the rookie finished with an impressive 23 points and 10 assists.

But after locking in on defense and seeing it result in a lead earlier in the game, the Nets knew what they needed to do get to reduce their magic number to one.

Claxton’s stayed active on the defensive while Mikal Bridges joined him in the fourth. Bridges failed to deliver another efficient night at the offensive end. Hitting just two shots on 11 attempts, the Villanova product had to keep his gun in its holster for much of the night.

But like the great ones do, Brooklyn Bridges stayed with it. After missing his last of those aforementioned shots from downtown, he darted back on defense to reject an Ivey layup attempt. With roughly four minutes to play, the Nets then closed things out with an 11-7 run.

“We took a punch in the third and I think we really responded,” said Jacque Vaughn after the game. “Shots went in in for us, but our box outs, 50-50 balls, really covering for each other, and defending gave us a chance to win this ballgame.”

Royce O’Neale splashed two triples to aid Brooklyn in their final period effort as well. He finished with 15 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds while shooting 5-10 from the field in his first start since February.

“Whether I’m starting, coming off the bench, my game’s not going to change,” said O’Neale after the game. “I do whatever I have to do to impact the game for us to win.”

Spencer Dinwiddie kept him along with every other Brooklyn instrument humming tonight, dishing out 16 assists that would tie a career high for him.

With the Miami Heat playing the Philadelphia 76ers tomorrow, the Nets can clinch the Eastern Conference’s sixth seed if the Sixers take care of business. If Miami pulls of the upset though, Brooklyn can still clinch all the same on Friday night when they’ll host the Orlando Magic.

Milestone Watch

  • Spencer Dinwiddie is just the second Nets player with two games tallying 16+ assists in a season since the team moved to Brooklyn in 2012-13 (James Harden in 2020-21)
  • Spencer Dinwiddie became the second Net since ‘96-97 to get 11 assists with no turnovers in a first half (Jason Kidd in 2001-02)
  • Royce O’Neale finished with seven assists tonight. He’s tallied seven or more just nine times in his career, eight of which have come in Brooklyn.

StatMuse on Nic Claxton

StatMuse, the Twitter feed that offers statistical nuance on the NBA game, offered a series of tweets Wednesday and Claxton’s season...

Standings Watch

As mentioned before, Brooklyn’s magic number is now one. The Heat will play the 76ers tomorrow, the Wizards, and then the Magic. After the Magic, the Nets will play the 76ers on Sunday. Any losses from Miami on wins for Brooklyn will give them the six seed and almost certainly a first round date with Philly.

Decision Day for Moses Brown

The Nets will have to make a decision Thursday on Moses Brown. Brown’s second 10-day contract runs out, meaning Brooklyn will have to decide to wish him well or sign him to a standard NBA deal. However, because he was signed and waived by the Knicks after March 1, he will not be available for post-season if signed. The Nets could leave the spot open, sigh another two-way or convert one of their two two-ways, David Duke Jr. or Dru Smith to a standard deal, as they did last year at this time with Kessler Edwards.

Speaking of Duke, he finished third in the G League MVP voting after averaging 22.9 points, five points and five rebounds for Long Island. Carik Jones of the Windy City Bulls won the award.

What’s Next

The Nets finish the season with a two-game homestand, Friday night vs Orlando then Sunday afternoon vs Philadelphia. One more win and this year’s Nets will have won one more game than last year’s 44-win team.

For a different perspective head on over to Detroit Bad Boys, our sister site on SB Nation.