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Pistons vs. Nets final score: Durant explodes in second half and Detroit’s comeback falls just short

Rookie Cade Cunningham rallies team from 16 down to just one, but Pistons can’t finish the job

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Pistons had cut a 16-point deficit to just one after a Cade Cunningham 3-pointer with 2:37 left, but they couldn’t close the deal because the Nets simply asked Kevin Durant to finish off Detroit, and he happily obliged. When the buzzer sounded, the Nets walked away with a 96-90 victory, and the Pistons walked away with another poor offensive showing but at least a few bright spots among its young players.

Durant struggled with just nine points and poor shooting in the first half, but he got 20 of his 29 in the second half, and simply took the ball and got to his spots. He hit a soft jumper off the glass to put his team up four right before Cade’s 3-pointer, then took the next possession, took the switch so he had center Isaiah Stewart at the top of the key, and wheeled around for a short 9-foot fadeaway jumper that was never in doubt.

After former Piston and charge-taking expert Blake Griffin coaxed a charge out of Saddiq Bey, Durant took the next possession, again got the switch onto Stewart he wanted and this time drove him straight to the basket for a driving layup off glass that was as smooth as anything you’ll ever see.

To be honest, Stewart’s defense was never even bad. He had a good showing all night with solid defense all game, 8 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Durant can just get what he wants when he wants. And on a night his teammate James Harden was struggling, Durant took the game over in the second half and made it his.

There were small glimpses of the takeover mentality from rookie Cade Cunningham as well. He scored 8 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter and hit some big shots late to make it an actual game.

The two teams struggled mightily on offense out of the gate, entering the halfway point in a 39-39 slugfest where nobody on either end seemed interested in putting the ball in the basket. Part of that was some quality Pistons defense combined with its usual allergy to hitting 3-pointers. Part of it was some truly horrendous shots and decision-making from Harden.

He finished the game with 13 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists in what might be the absolute least satisfying triple-double of his career. He was hunting for fouls, making poor decisions (9 turnovers), and settling way too easily. He also inexplicably let Bey scoop a ball up in the backcourt after he dribbled it off his leg and didn’t want to be called for over and back. Bey happily took the rock and sailed in for an easy dunk at the other end.

Offensively, it was another poor showing for Detroit overall. Cunningham is showing signs of getting his rhythm together, but the jumpers still aren’t falling and he had some tough-luck misses up close.

Detroit shot just 37% from the floor and 32% from 3 for the game. That includes the worst game of Jerami Grant’s tenure as a Detroit Piston (I did not research this). He was 0-of-9 from the floor, and had a few costly turnovers. He looks a bit lost on defense because he’s putting too much on his shoulders as his counterparts brick jumper after jumper.

Hopefully as Cade gets more comfortable and at least a couple guys start to see their shots falling more regularly, things will start falling into place.

The only other major incident was a bit of a scuffle between Stewart and Griffin late in the game that led to double technicals for the two former teammates. Stewart and Griffin were locked up under the basket courtesy of a patented big-man arm-bar from Griffin, both players tumbled to the floor. Stewart got up first and, well, he communicated his displeasure.

Cunningham started at point guard with Killian Hayes sidelined by a sprained thumb, and it was nice, and very natural, to see the offense run through Cunningham. Josh Jackson was named a starter and played quality defense all night, so the Pistons definitely had their opportunities.

But they will remain one of the worst teams in the league as long as they feature the league’s most hapless offense. I’m not sure if that’s going to change anytime soon, but, man, I hope they have a breakout game before I start putting up Christmas decorations.