While so many were basking in an improbable Detroit Lions December comeback win that saw that team reach .500 and enter the thick of the playoff race, the Detroit Pistons and Brooklyn Nets were exchanging body blows at Little Caesars Arena.
Honestly, the Pistons more then held their own with the surging Brooklyn Nets, winners of five straight and nine of its previous 10 entering Sunday’s game. The Pistons outrebounded Brooklyn, won the turnover battle, led by as many as 19 points, shot 47% from the field and went to the line 34 times, making 29. And they lost 124-121.
How? Well, you’re not gonna win many games when you let the opposing team shoot 55/50/91, including allowing 15 made 3-pointers. You’re not going to win many games when you let a top heavy team get 81 points combined from Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
In end, though, it was a crucial stretch that turned a bad third quarter into a brutal one that turned the tides of the game. Unsurprisingly, you have Kevin Durant to thank for that.
The Pistons were up 12 points with three minutes remaining in the third when a Durant jumper, consecutive bad turnovers from Alec Burks and silly fouls from Jaden Ivey on a Durant three and Kevin Knox on Durant again saw KD cut the lead by seven in less than a minute.
Cory Joseph earned two points back at the free-throw line, but then Durant took them right back with another trip to the line himself. The Durants, uh, I mean Nets and Pistons kept trading baskets, but Durant’s threes were worth more and suddenly the Pistons went from up 12 to down two with 3.1 seconds left. In the end, Durant scored 18 points (of 21 Nets points) in the final three minutes of the third.
The momentum of the game completely shifted. The Nets got up by as many as seven midway through the fourth. While the Pistons were able to keep fighting, the damage had already been done.
Detroit was able to cut it the deficit to one when Killian Hayes had a step-in-front steal off a bad Durant pass which led to a transition three for Bojan Bogdanovic. But Hayes then was called for a foul on Kyrie Irving’s three with 28 seconds left.
Were there any bright spots in a game that features the surrender of a 19-point lead and having to get absolutely demolished by Brooklyn’s two-headed monster? For sure.
First, the Detroit Pistons’ two-big experiment continues to pay dividends and, more importantly, each of Isaiah Stewart and Jalen Duren are growing into their roles.
The Nets’ frontcourt is far from the NBA’s most imposing, but Stewart and Duren were a combined plus-13 no the night. Duren again had a double-digit rebounding effort (11) in 28 minutes, he’s continued to minimize his fouls and he shot 4-of-5 from the floor. Stewart continues to play solid defense, hit another three and had nine points and seven rebounds.
Hayes shot 30% from the floor, which isn’t necessarily a positive, but it’s a good sign that on a night where his threes aren’t falling, he continues to stay aggressive 13 shots, and he also had eight assists to zero turnovers. Eventually, maybe you’ll want to see him dial back on the attempts when he doesn’t have it, but for a 21-year-old with some documented confidence issues, we are far from at that moment.
Bojan Bogdanovic continues to showcase his skills for Detroit and the rest of the NBA. He led the Pistons with 26 points, got to the line nine times, had four assists and made three 3s. Yeah, there were some ugly late turnovers and it was an inefficient night overall, but he continues to be a bucket for the Pistons.
Lastly, and most importantly, Jaden Ivey put on a hell of a show as he shakes off some recent struggles. He was 7-of-11 from the field on his way to 19 points, he got to the line six times, and he had three absolutely monster dunks that showed off his elite athleticism.
We’ll just give Ivey the final word. The Pistons next play Tuesday where Bojan and Kelly Olynyk face their former teams as Detroit takes on the Utah Jazz.