After disappointing efforts in Denver and Minnesota, the Detroit Pistons were overly gracious hosts to the Brooklyn Nets in Saturday's home opener, losing 102-90 and falling to 0-3 on the season. Joe Johnson was virtually unstoppable with 34 points for Brooklyn, matching Detroit's entire roster in the fourth quarter.
The Nets took control of the game early, scoring 59 points and shooting 52.3 percent in the first half. But the Pistons never let the game get too far out of reach, and with 8:49 left in the fourth, they even briefly regained the lead, 84-83, when Caron Butler was fouled beyond the arc and converted all three free throws.
Unfortunately, that's when Johnson re-entered the game to lead Brooklyn on a 17-2 run. Technically speaking, Johnson didn't beat the Pistons all by himself, but he did match Detroit with 15 points in the fourth by shooting 7-for-9 from the field. He finished the game with eight rebounds and six assists.
The Pistons, meanwhile, shot just 25 percent in the final frame, making just four of 16 attempts from the field and missing all five of their 3-point attempts. The Pistons have often struggled to get points on the board in their first three games, but what made the ending on Saturday especially frustrating is that they actually looked decent for much of the game, shooting 46.7 percent through the first three frames despite converting just one of 12 3-point attempts.
Greg Monroe, suspended for the first two games of the year, looked like Detroit's best player for long stretches. Despite coming off the bench for the first time since his rookie year, he scored 18 points (7-12 shooting) with 11 rebounds and three assists in 30 minutes. Josh Smith scored 14 points (6-15) with nine rebounds, five assists and just one turnover in 44 minutes.
Unfortunately, Smith was pressed into extended minutes with Andre Drummond once again allowing the referees to dictate his playing time. Drummond played just under 22 minutes, but was productive with 14 points and eight rebounds. Drummond needs to play smarter -- or at least make his fouls count.
Despite finishing with two blocks and five fouls, it rarely felt like Drummond made a significant impact on defense, which contributed to the Nets scoring 46 points in the paint. The Nets hardly missed injured starting center Brook Lopez, with big men Kevin Garnett (18 points, 14 rebounds), Mason Plumlee (10 points, five rebounds) and Mirza Teletovic (12 points, seven rebounds) having their way against Detroit's oversized frontline.
One silver lining to this game was the play of Brandon Jennings. After being limited to just 20 and 15 minutes in the first two games, perhaps putting his starting job in jeopardy, he earned his 36 minutes of court time on Saturday, finishing with 18 points (6-14), nine assists and a steal. D.J. Augustin finished with six points (1-5) and two assists in 18:30 minutes.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope finished with 10 points but still hasn't found his shot. He's been so bad, his 3-10 performance Saturday actually raised his shooting percentage on the season to 26.7 percent.
We'll have more on this game later, but now your thoughts.