Tonight’s game was perhaps the most important Nets game in the Atkinson Marks era, and Brooklyn showed up big. The Nets opened this game up strong and never looked back, shooting the ball lights out from the field and playing tremendous defense all night. The led by as many as 30 points.
The red-hot Pistons came into this game tonight winning 5 straight including a dominating win in last nights performance against the Chicago Bulls. Detroit was on a back to back coming into this game, still knowing what was on the line, but the Nets never gave the Pistons a chance. They shot the ball great from start to finish and never let up. Rodions Kurucs really showed up big; in his 20 minutes of play he scored 13 points shooting 6/8 from the field but he also added 3 big steals in the game that all lead to fast break points.
This matchup on paper doesn’t favor the Nets considering how big the Pistons are overall and how deep they are. Despite this, Jarrett Allen and Ed Davis really stepped up big tonight, playing stellar defense and controlling Drummond and Griffin down low. There was a lid on the rim all night tonight for Blake Griffin, who couldn’t buy a bucket. He only scored 10 points and shot just 1/10 from the field, scoring 7 of his 10 points from the stripe. Drummond who seems to average 20 rebounds every time he plays the Nets, ended up with 13 points and 19 boards tonight but there was a lot of second and third chance opportunities for Drummond that he just couldn’t finish on. The Nets were making them fight and battle in the post, with double and triple teams working to perfection to control both Griffin and Drummond. Reggie Jackson left this game early in the second quarter with what looked like a groin injury and the Nets really took advantage of the Pistons starting point guard being out of the game. Levert, Russell and Joe Harris all played with great chemistry and took care of the lackluster Pistons defense all night. Although the Nets did miss a lot of open looks early on, it didn’t affect the outcome of the game. The Pistons couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn if they tried.
Now, with this big win tonight over the Pistons, the Nets have won 4 in a row and solely control the position of the 6 seed in the East. They also now own the season tiebreaker with the Pistons, 2 to 1. The Nets, who really needed to win these last 4 games after coming into it with a 3 game losing streak, did just that. The Nets took down Dallas in dominating fashion, then beat Cleveland and Atlanta before coming back home and handling the Pistons tonight.
The road trip starts Wednesday night in Oklahoma City to take on a Finals caliber team. The Thunder have had a great season thus far with their newest long-term signee, Paul George, is putting up MVP like numbers this season and completely dominating the game. It is a tall order for any team this year to contain the likes of George and Russell Westbrook but the Nets have been scratching and clawing all year, and I’m sure Atkinson will draw up some type of game-plan to keep his Nets in this game and steal a huge road win to start this long trip.
The one downside of tonight’s game is that Demare Carroll had to leave the game early after tripping over a falling Blake Griffin. It has been reported that Carroll missed the remainder of the game due to a hyperextended knee and the longevity of the injury hasn’t been determined. It is an unfortunate loss if Carroll is out for the long-term considering the Nets are just gaining a fully healthy squad for the first time all year. However, this team has prevailed all season with the injuries or not so it will have to be “the next man up” like they’ve been doing all year.
Allen Crabbe was another guy that really stepped up. He was shooting well all night, finally finding his stroke, especially when Carroll went down and Crabbe was asked to play in his absence. Crabbe ended up with a double-double tonight, scoring 14 points with 10 rebounds while shooting 5/8 from the field and 4/6 from beyond the arch. They will need to get a contribution from every one of their bench players if they intend to do big things this postseason, and their potential postseason test starts on Wednesday night in OKC.
The Nets defense tonight was one to write home about, holding the Pistons offense to just 28% from the field on the night. As I said earlier in this article the Pistons couldn’t buy a bucket all night and it showed on the stat sheet, with 73 points on the night. If the Nets defense can show up like they did tonight they can be a force in the near future, and a team that no one will want to see in the first round of the playoffs. This team shows tons of effort and fight and they are coached very well, showing off their chemistry as well as their excellent shooting ability. The one thing that the Nets still need to work on is their free throw shooting, which showed up as a weak spot again tonight. It was not nearly as bad as their performance from the stripe on Saturday night in Atlanta, attempting a franchise high 53 free throw attempts while hitting just 33 of them, just 61%. Tonight the Nets shot much fewer attempts; 22, and they were able to knock down 14 of them, which is 64% from the line. If they want to make the playoffs and possibly even a postseason run, free throw shooting is something that they will need to address.