Pistons keep it close but Harden steers Nets to victory

Detroit News

Rod Beard | The Detroit News

The Detroit Pistons continue to play well against some of the top teams in the league.

They’re just not going to end up winning every time. Even when they don’t win, it’s worth watching.

Against the Brooklyn Nets, whom the Pistons already beat this season, they had another gritty effort, getting within one point in the final two minutes.

James Harden carried the Nets in the final stretch, scoring all 10 of their points and leading the Nets to a 100-95 win on Saturday night at Barclays Center. It’s the third straight loss for the Pistons (10-28), who play their next two games at Little Caesars Arena.

Jerami Grant had 22 points, Saddiq Bey and Delon Wright added 13 points each and Mason Plumlee had 11 points, nine rebounds and six assists.

Harden posted a triple-double with 24 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, as the Nets (26-13) struggled from 3-point range (6-of-27) but had enough down the final stretch to hold off a late Pistons charge.

“He did what he always does and makes it tough on defense,” Wright said. “We just didn’t come away with enough stops.”

The Nets had a 90-81 lead at the 5:11 mark after a drive by Kyrie Irving (18 points and five assists) but the Pistons rallied with a 10-0 run. Wright and Wayne Ellington hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Rodney McGruder (10 points and seven rebounds) added a lay-in on the next possession. After Plumlee’s dunk with 3:03 left, the Pistons had the lead.

BOX SCORE: Nets 100, Pistons 95

That’s when Harden kicked into high gear, making a pair of free throws. Plumlee split a pair of free throws and Harden scored on drives to the basket on consecutive possessions, pushing the lead to 96-92.

Bey made one of two free throws and Harden again scored on a drive, for a five-point margin. The Pistons’ last gasp was a basket by Plumlee, but Harden answered again with two more free throws for the final margin.

Here are some observations from the loss:

►Rodney McGruder was one of the first reserves to enter the game and was productive and efficient in his 28 minutes — the most of any reserve. McGruder wasn’t finding a lot of playing time early in the season, but he’s becoming a steady contributor off the bench, averaging 9.3 points in his last four games.

“He’s just a glue guy, one of those guys who knows how to play and competes hard … I love the way he plays,” Casey said.

►The Pistons had a stretch of 19 straight missed 3-pointers, spanning the first quarter to the third quarter. They finished 8-of-32 in the game, but they managed to stay close despite the poor shooting for most of the game.

“We got great looks and our offense is structured around 3-point shooting; to beat a team like this, you’ve got to make 3s,” Casey said. “I was encouraged with our defense, but to win in today’s game, you’ve got to make 3-point shots.”

►Landry Shamet (15 points) helped keep the Nets above water, with eight straight points in the last part of the third quarter, when the Pistons had closed within one with a 14-3 run. Shamet hit a jumper then added back-to-back 3-pointers, pushing the lead back to nine. He finished the third quarter with a 3-pointer and pushed the lead to 12 before the Pistons’ fourth-quarter surge.

►Following the Svi Mykhailiuk trade, which was announced Saturday, the Pistons were a little shorthanded, which opened the door for some of the McGruder minutes. Still, there will be some time before Hamidou Diallo is able to join the Pistons and before he’ll be able to play, as he’s coming off of a groin injury. Casey likes Diallo’s athleticism, noting, “You can’t teach length, toughness and size.”

►Many fans were looking forward to a matchup that included Blake Griffin facing his former team for the first time. It wasn’t to be. Griffin still is working his way back into playing shape and m be out of the lineup for a bit, especially given that he hasn’t played in a game in more than a month. The Nets have one off the best records in the East and have no need to rush Griffin back until he’s ready to go. The final head-to-head meeting is on March 26 at Little Caesars Arena.


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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