The Brooklyn Nets had a rough start to the season, thanks to off-the-court drama and a coaching change at the beginning of November. They’ve since rounded into form, largely thanks to the superstar play of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
The Detroit Pistons were on the receiving end of a tag-team effort by the superstar duo Sunday at Little Caesars Arena. Despite leading by 19 points in the second quarter, the Pistons fell to the Nets, 124-121, behind a combined 81 points by Durant (43 points, six rebounds) and Irving (38 points, six rebounds). The Pistons’ fortunes shifted in the second half, outscored 70-50 as their offense went cold and Brooklyn’s heated up.
Bojan Bogdanovic led the Pistons (8-24) with 26 points, and Jaden Ivey added 19. Bogdanovic hit a 3-pointer with 39.8 seconds left following a steal and crosscourt pass from Killian Hayes (10 points, eight assists, five rebounds). But Hayes fouled Irving on a 3-point attempt on the following possession, stepping into his airspace as Irving landed. Irving hit two of his three free throw attempts.
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Alec Burks made a layup following an offensive rebound with 11 seconds left to cut the deficit to one, but Durant made a pair of free throws on the other end, and Bogdanovic’s potential game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer missed.
The Pistons host the Utah Jazz (17-15) on Tuesday night, then visit Philadelphia on Wednesday.
Durant, Irving take over
The Pistons led 71-54 at halftime, thanks to a strong opening quarter and pedestrian play, by their standards, from Brooklyn’s All-NBA duo. Durant and Irving finished with 13 points each after two periods on 19 combined shots. The Nets, who had won five straight and nine of 10 games entering Sunday, may not have expected the Pistons to put up a strong fight.
Durant essentially put the game away in the third quarter, scoring 26 points to help Brooklyn (19-12) win the quarter, 44-25, and give the Nets control of the game. Durant is one of the greatest scorers in NBA history, and there wasn’t much the Pistons could do as he punished them from all three areas of the floor: rim, midrange and 3-point land. He closed the third quarter with back-to-back 3s, giving the Nets their first lead of the night, 98-96, with 2.7 seconds left.
Irving then joined the fun, scoring 25 in the second half, as he and Durant outscored the Pistons, 55-50 in the half. Brooklyn had 70 second-half points.
Ivey energizes Pistons with strong first half
It took a couple of months, but Ivey finally got his first poster Sunday.
He blew past Nets forward Yuta Watanabe with three minutes left in the opening quarter, and rose above him to finish a right-handed dunk. The Pistons’ bench and a significant portion of the home crowd stood in excitement as Ivey flexed in front of Watanabe, before getting back on defense. Ivey was whistled for a technical foul for the gesture. It was probably worth it.
It was the most exciting play of an exciting first half for the fifth overall pick last June. He scored 16 in the first two periods, making six of eight shot attempts and one of two 3s. Brooklyn struggled with his speed, and he capitalized repeatedly. He finished a transition layup off of an outlet pass from fellow rookie Jalen Duren with three minutes left until halftime to extend the lead to 15, and grabbed an offensive rebound from a missed Duren hook and laid it in for a 19-point advantage — the biggest of the night — a couple of minutes later.
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Detroit dominated the first two periods, and Ivey’s energy, along with strong off-the-bench halves from Saddiq Bey and Marvin Bagley III, allowed the Pistons to control the early portion of the night, before Durant and Irving changed the Pistons’ fortunes in the second half.