Every game counts at this point in the season. There are 13 games left and the Pistons, Bulls, and Wizards are in a dogfight for the 8 seed. News came out before the game that Brook Lopez would not play with an illness. Brook Lopez has always given the Pistons fits, so this one should be easy, right?
Things were not looking good early on. The starters were letting the Nets hang around with some more poor defense. They had no answer for former D-Leaguers Henry Sims and Sean Kilpatrick. Thaddeus Young also had himself a game.
The Pistons were up two at halftime, 54-52. They came out for the 3rd quarter and looked like they might start taking over after building up a seven point lead. That was until a 13-0 Nets run put the Nets up six. At that point, I know I began to panic. A loss wouldn't end the Pistons' playoff hopes, but it would put a huge damper on them.
In came Stanley Johnson and the whole game changed. He had three straight assists to Andre Drummond and brought intensity on defense with four steals. The Pistons tied the game up at 77 going into the 4th. The bench brigade plus Kentavious Caldwell-Pope came in to close the 3rd and start the 4th, and they put this game out of reach. The ball movement was crisp and the defense was lockdown.
Anthony Tolliver has struggled since returning from his injury. He didn't even play in Friday's game against the Kings. He hit four threes in a row at the end of the 3rd and into the 4th. He finished the game with 17 points. Stanley Johnson has also struggled with returning from injury, but not tonight. He finished with 10 points, 7 boards, 4 steals and 6 assists.
Aron Baynes set a new career high with 21 points, including 17(!) in the 4th quarter. KCP also tied a career high in assists with eight.
Thaddeus Young had 24 points for the Nets, and Sean Kilpatrick looked impressive after signing a long-term deal today following his 10-day contracts, scoring 15 points.
It was a game that should not have been as close as it was for most of it. But this is the NBA, and any team needs to be taken seriously, even if one of their best players is missing. The bench has been an issue for much of the season, but it was great to see them bail out the starters for once.
On to the next one against the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday at the Palace.