Pistons give up 44 points in third quarter, fall short for 124-121 loss to Nets

Detroit News

Detroit — Kevin Durant felt the momentum shift in the waning seconds of the third quarter.

On three consecutive trips down the floor, the Brooklyn Nets star walked into three 3-pointers to give his team the edge while Kyrie Irving celebrated on the bench because of foul trouble.

It was his most crucial moment of the Nets’ 124-121 victory over the Pistons on Sunday because it was the moment Durant decided to take over. He scored 26 of his game-high 43 in the third quarter after his team trailed by 19 late in the second quarter.

More:BOX SCORE: Nets 124, Pistons 121

“I usually know how many shot attempts I have, but when I forget that’s when I really know I’m super in the zone, when I don’t know what my shot attempts or my points are,” Durant said after the game. “I felt like the ball was coming to my hands so fast that I couldn’t even process it in my mind; I looked up there [at the scoreboard] and I didn’t think I had that much. But it was good to get back into the game and give us some momentum and energy. Coaches were up the whole fourth quarter so I’m glad that little spark gave us a push there.”

After Durant’s third-quarter masterpiece, Irving closed the game with a 14-point fourth quarter. He spent most of the night with foul trouble, but gracefully put on a shooting clinic with a 38-point performance of his own. He connected on 5-of-10 from beyond the 3-point line, including a pair of 3-pointers early in the third quarter that cut into the Pistons halftime lead.

The Pistons trailed by four during the final minute when Killian Hayes stole the ball from Durant, leading to a clutch 3-pointer from Bojan Bogdanovic to bring the deficit to one. However, Irving was fouled on a 3-point attempt on the following play, which was unsuccessfully challenged by Pistons coach Dwane Casey. He knocked down two of three attempts, which gave Detroit a chance to tie the score with a 3-pointer.

Detroit was down 122-119 with 29 seconds left when Bogdanovic attempted another 3-pointer but missed. The Pistons picked up the offensive rebound, which led to a wide-open layup by Alec Burks. He then fouled Durant, who knocked down two free throws to give the Nets a three-point lead with nine seconds remaining. Bogdanovic tried another 3-pointer but missed, leading to the Pistons’ second straight loss.

The Nets entered the game winners of five straight and nine of the last 10. The Pistons led for the large part of three quarters, but gave up 44 points in the third quarter. It was a worse defensive effort than in Friday’s loss to the Sacramento Kings, in which the Detroit allowed 38 points in the third quarter.

“We played three good quarters of basketball, and it was the nemesis that we talked about before the game and at halftime: the third quarter,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “We have to understand the disposition that you have to come out with. We had a 17-point lead and then we came out of halftime like they weren’t going to come out and play. … Once they turn that water on it’s tough to turn off.”

Six Pistons scored in double-figures. Bogdanovic led the team with 26 points and four assists. Detroit rookie guard Jaden Ivey, who had a phenomenal first half, finished with 19 points and four assists. He also had three dunks, including his first poster dunk in the NBA as he rose over Yuta Watanabe early in the first quarter.

Ivey then picked up a technical for what appeared to be taunting Watanabe after the play.

“I thought he played a heck of a game,” Casey said of Ivey. “I thought that was one of his best games of the last two weeks. He did a great job of pushing the ball and picking his spots when to push it in the first half.”

Since Dec. 1, the Pistons have led the NBA with 401 bench points (50.1 per game). They scored 49 on Sunday. Casey opted to go with his bench for an extended stretch in the second quarter, which allowed Saddiq Bey and Marvin Bagley to take advantage of their matchups.

Bey finished with 10 points. Bagley scored 12 and grabbed four rebounds off the bench. Burks added 12 points and five rebounds. Knox added nine points. Cory Joseph had six points and four assists.

Pistons legend Isiah Thomas was in attendance. As he made his entrance at the beginning of the first quarter, he was showered with praise from Pistons fans inside Little Caesars Arena. He waved at fans as they called his name “Zeke! Zeke!” He spent the majority of the first half sitting courtside next to Pistons vice chairman Arn Tellem. Ivey’s dunk over Watanabe caused Thomas to rise from his seat to celebrate.

The Michigan State men’s basketball team was also in attendance for Sunday’s game.

The Pistons will host the Utah Jazz on Tuesday in the first of a back-to-back, which concludes at Philadelphia on Wednesday.

mcurtis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @MikeACurtis2

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