DETROIT — It happened just the way Spencer Dinwiddie dreamed of one day getting revenge on his former Pistons team, which never gave him the opportunity he is receiving now with the Nets. Dinwiddie scored 11 fourth-quarter points, including the game-winning 14-foot jumper with nine-tenths of a second left on a play designed for him, to give the Nets a thrilling 101-100 victory Sunday night at Little Caesars Arena.
The Pistons overcame a 15-point third-quarter deficit to put a nose in front when center Andre Drummond made a short bank shot with 4.7 seconds left. Nets coach Kenny Atkinson called timeout and drew up a play for Dinwiddie, who has become their go-to guy this season.
The 6-6 point guard took the inbounds pass, used a screen set by Quincy Acy to get past Pistons point guard Ish Smith and pump-faked as the 6-11, 279-pound Drummond came over to contest. Dinwiddie somehow hung in the air and had enough strength to get the ball over Drummond’s outstretched hand and into the basket.
It was the second straight win for the Nets and the second straight time Dinwiddie led the fourth-quarter charge.
“[Acy] set a pretty solid screen and created some daylight off Ish, and I turned the corner,” Dinwiddie said. “I felt him close the gap, so I pump-faked. He jumped out of the way. Dre got a really good contest, but I was fortunate enough to make the shot.”
When the Nets lost point guard Jeremy Lin for the season with a knee injury in the opener and subsequently lost D’Angelo Russell for 32 games with a knee injury, Dinwiddie seized the starting point guard role. Some have suggested he’s a contender for Most Improved Player in the NBA.
Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy has been questioned about Dinwiddie’s failure with the Pistons before being traded to Chicago, where he was cut and eventually went to the G League.
“It was a situation where Spencer was looking for more of an opportunity,” Van Gundy said before the game. “We like Spencer a lot, had a good relationship with his agent. They asked us to make that trade, and we did. It didn’t end up working out in Chicago, but he’s moved on. Whether that helped him with his focus or he just got a better opportunity, I don’t know, but he’s played extremely well.”
After the game, teammate Rondae Hollis-Jefferson kidded Dinwiddie about looking around at everyone in the crowd of 17,554 after the winning shot. Dinwiddie smiled at the inevitable question about how it felt against his former team.
“Everybody’s been asking me that question about how it feels personally,” he said. “I’ve kind of tiptoed around it. Let’s just be real here. I start my career off here and, for lack of a better word, I was essentially cut. So how would y’all feel?”
Dinwiddie had 22 points and shot 9-for-13 to lead the Nets (18-26), who got 21 points from Hollis-Jefferson and 16 from DeMarre Carroll. Tobias Harris led the Pistons (22-23) with 20 points and Stanley Johnson scored 18, but the Nets held Drummond to seven.
Just 11 days earlier at Barclays Center, the Nets were embarrassed in a 34-point loss to the Pistons in which they trailed by as many as 40 points, so the entire team had as much motivation for payback as Dinwiddie did. He recognized that and took care to note that it was a big win for the Nets as a whole.
Dinwiddie even tried to downplay his own need for revenge. “I loved my time here, but for the betterment of my career, I kind of needed to move on,” he said. With a sly smile, he added, “No hard feelings, especially after a win.”