The Detroit Pistons began a possibly season-defining four-game road trip in the worst possible way, falling to the lowly Brooklyn Nets 98-96 on a Brook Lopez jumper at the buzzer.
For Detroit, it was essentially a must-win game. And they lost. They were playing against the NBA’s second-worst team per net rating. And they lost. They were playing a team allowing opponents 113.9 points per game. And they lost.
Perhaps we shouldn’t expect anything less considering the Pistons were facing their personal kryptonite in Lopez. The Nets big man did whatever he wanted on the floor, scoring 29 points including three 3-pointers.
No points were bigger than the final two, however. The Pistons had just tied the game on a Tobias Harris offensive rebound and putback with 2.9 seconds remaining.
The Nets called timeout and everyone knew the ball was coming Lopez’s way. The Nets knew it, the crowd knew it, and the Pistons certainly knew it. It didn’t matter.
Lopez took the ball in the post and easily hit a 12-foot turnaround jumper. Game over and with it perhaps the Pistons season.
Detroit came out hot, shooting 61 percent in the first quarter. After that, though, decisions were poor, rotations were slow and long jump shots were plentiful.
After shooting better than 60 percent after one frame, the Pistons finished the game at a paltry 43 percent including 21 percent from 3.
Per usual, the most dispiriting play came from Detroit’s highly paid duo of Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond.
Jackson was limited to 20 minutes due to general ineffectiveness that saw him notch just two assists and shoot 3-of-9 from the field. He was a -12. Drummond secured 17 rebounds but was a mess on the defensive end. He couldn’t handle Brooklyn’s penetration and was consistently late in recovering to Lopez who spent much of the game camped out around the perimeter.
Ish Smith and Tobias Harris were again tasked with trying to salvage a win, but it was too tall a hill to climb. Smith was all over the floor and kept the ball moving. He scored 16 points and was a plus 10. Harris, meanwhile, had 25 points on 15 shots. Seems like maybe giving him even more shots was the order of the day, but whatever.
With the loss and a Heat win the Pistons are out of the playoffs. That seems just about where they belong.