Nets vs. Pistons Recap: Kevin Durant’s 40-Piece Lifts Brooklyn to Victory
The Nets are an anomaly. At any given moment, they can dismantle the NBA’s best (i.e. Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers). At the same time, the group seems to struggle against teams that should be beatable. This was evident on Sunday against Charlotte, as the Hornets defeated the Nets in Kyrie Irving’s home debut.
Tuesday night told a similar story, as the scrappy Pistons proved to be a formidable foe. But, thanks to Kevin Durant, did Brooklyn came away with an important win at home.
Even though Detroit is typically not a team that shoots well from beyond the arc, the Pistons got off to a red hot start from distance in the first half. Brooklyn’s defense struggled mightily through large chunks of the first and second quarters. It seemed as if the game plan was to let the Pistons take their open threes, but Detroit was uncharacteristically on point and managed to maintain a lead heading into the second quarter.
In the second period, the Pistons were relentless. Defensively, they contained the Nets efficiently, while producing on their own end. Detroit held multiple double-digit leads in the first half as Brooklyn had few answers. Despite Durant’s best efforts, a lackluster effort from most of the team resulted in the Pistons holding a 64-58 lead heading into halftime.
Coming out of the locker room, Brooklyn finally woke up. As the third quarter got underway, a different energy filled the arena. The ball was moving, everyone was engaged and the open man was being found effectively. A flurry of points from Durant and Bruce Brown gave the Nets their first lead since the first quarter, and proved to be the turning point that decided the rest of the night.
However, Detroit did not go away quietly. Cade Cunningham, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NBA draft, was unstoppable in the second half. His electrifying playmaking kept Detroit in the game as Cunningham and Durant consistently traded buckets. With 12 minutes left to play, the Nets held onto a 96-94 lead, leaving the door open for Detroit.
A floater from Frank Jackson gave Detroit a 101-99 lead, and the Pistons had an opportunity to grab hold of the momentum. It felt almost identical to how the game slipped away against Charlotte, which is the last thing Brooklyn needed. However, this time Durant, Irving and Seth Curry made sure the Nets got the job done at home. With the Nets leading by four, Curry buried a clutch three-pointer, putting the game out of reach for the remainder of the evening.
Considering Curry had been struggling throughout much of the night, it was refreshing to see him find a rhythm down the stretch. Ultimately, Brooklyn held on to win at home, improving to 40-36 on the season. The final score: Brooklyn 130, Detroit 123.
A Step In The Right Direction
Many times this season, the Nets have been unable to close during the final minutes, but this was not the case on Tuesday night. Though it was not the prettiest win, Brooklyn stood strong as the clock ticked down to zeroes. Durant has been incredibly consistent while healthy this season and was the key piece to victory, to little surprise. He finished the night with 41 points on 60% shooting, alongside 11 rebounds and five assists. His aggressiveness defensively was also a spark that the team needed, as he racked up three blocks on the night.
Brown continues to be an underrated asset each night; the feisty defender scored 15 points while shooting perfectly from the field. His presence on both ends of the floor is one that Brooklyn has come to appreciate greatly. As the playoffs approach, Brown will be an integral piece of a team with championship aspirations.
Irving has struggled since returning to Barclays with subpar efforts against Charlotte and Detroit. That being said, the superstar consistently shows up in the clutch–and did so on Tuesday. Irving made several important plays down the stretch, which helped push the Nets to victory. As he readjusts to being a full-time player, Irving can be expected to settle down and fully embrace his role.
At this point in the season, every victory is extremely important. Brooklyn cannot afford to sink lower in the play-in tournament as they are currently clinging to the No. 8 seed. Obviously, the team would prefer to avoid having to participate in two play-in games. With just six games left to play in the regular season, Brooklyn has to maintain an aggressive attitude to ensure they secure a playoff spot. With the Bucks coming to town on Thursday, the Nets will have to be at the top of their game to come away with a win.