Kevin Durant leads Nets' rally past Pistons
Tuesday night’s Nets game against the Pistons will go down as a win — one where Kevin Durant scored 41 points, and the Nets came back from a double-digit deficit. But as is so often the case for teams with championship aspirations, it’ll signify more than that.
It’ll be a game the Nets could have won in easier fashion but did not. A game where they needed to use their considerable fire power to compensate for defensive gaffes. And a game, ultimately, that showed what happens when the Nets don’t play with a defensive edge.
It's an edge they need to find more consistently, and quickly, with only six games left in the regular season.
Led by Durant, the Nets made up a 12-point second quarter deficit to keep the meddlesome Pistons at bay, 130-123, at Barclays Center. The Nets (40-36) remain a game ahead of the Hornets for eighth place.
“It really comes down to how much edge we play with,” Steve Nash said. “I think when we play with edge, we’re a much better team defensively. When we take our foot off the gas a little bit, we’re not good enough to just roll out there and shut people down.”
But how do they do that every game, especially now, when every game means so much?
“I do not know the answer to that,” Nash said.
The Nets had five players score in double digits, including Kyrie Irving, who scored 24 and Andre Drummond, who had 14 points and 13 rebounds. Durant had 11 rebounds in his 15th double-double this season. Cade Cunningham scored 17 of his 34 points in the fourth to keep the 14th place Pistons in it.
Defensive consistency is “something that we have to work on,” Drummond said. “We can't hang our hat on a second half. We have to play a complete game cause it's not always going to be that easy to make that turnaround against great teams. Not that the Pistons aren't a great team. They played a hell of a game and we just turned it up in that second half and we can't play like that.”
Down by three going into the third, the Nets cobbled together an 11-3 run, highlighted by Bruce Brown’s right-wing three with under 10 minutes to go, giving them a 69-67 advantage.
But despite leading up by as many as eight in the third — courtesy of Durant’s 16 points in the quarter and Brown’s 10 — the Nets only outscored the Pistons 38-30 in the frame, giving them just a two-point cushion going into the fourth.
The Pistons tied it three times in the fourth — the final time on Cunningham’s jumper with 5:08 left. Durant, though, scored the next four, and Seth Curry hit a corner three to put the Nets up 115-108.
But before that second half, it was the Pistons who looked like the playoff team. They went 9-for-17 from the perimeter while the Nets committed 10 turnovers for 11 points, giving the Pistons a 64-58 halftime lead.
It was a continuation of previous struggles. Going into the day, the Nets allowed opponents to shoot 44.3% from three in the last three games, including 53.1% to the Hornets Sunday. The deficiency is further highlighted against the Pistons, who came into the night as the second-worst three-point shooting team in the league at 32.4%. The Nets were, however, able to clamp down on that in the second half and the Pistons ended up shooting 42.1% from three for the game.
Durant, though, cautioned against putting too much stock in the Pistons’ record.
“I know their record isn’t good, but [they] still got pros over there,” he said. “And tonight, they made shots. They started off the game making six threes in the first quarter. That gives you a lot of confidence as a team. It’s good for us to go through periods like that, because there’s going to be times in the playoffs when teams get hot unexpectedly and see how we weather the storm. So, it’s a good test for us, and I like it no matter if we’re playing the Pistons or the Milwaukee Bucks. I think [it was a] situation we got better from, and we moved, we evolved as the game went on, regardless of the opponent.”