Fast Start, Tough Finish as Nets Top Pistons, 109-101

The Brooklyn Nets opened their night with an offensive performance humming on the edge of perfection and closed it with a series of gut-check defensive stops and makes on gotta-have-it shots to close out the Detroit Pistons in a 109-101 win at Barclays Center on Wednesday night.

It was the second raucous win at home for the Nets in the young season, sandwiched around a dismal outing against Chicago that the Nets quickly made a memory by pouring in 71 first-half points on the way to improving to 2-3.

But with point guard Jeremy Lin sidelined in the second half by a sore hamstring, the Nets saw Detroit close within five points on a pair of occasions in the final half of the fourth quarter before holding on for the win.

“It was great to see the guys stick together, play within each other and just trust each other,” said Brook Lopez. “That’s where we’re going to find our true strength and that’s what’s going to make us a great team. So we need to trust in that right now and just continue to improve.”

A Marcus Morris 3-pointer with 2:37 to go brought the Pistons back within 103-98, and Detroit was on the edge of making it a one-possession game as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope got to the rim at the one-minute mark. But Trevor Booker’s block denied Caldwell-Pope, and Bojan Bogdanovic made a pair of free throws at the other end.

“Spectacular,” said coach Kenny Atkinson. “But that’s part of who Trevor Booker is and why we brought him here and how hard he plays and his defensive instincts. It was really evident on that play. It’s funny, that was a great block, but I thought a lot of guys stepped up and made big defensive plays, grabbed big defensive rebounds against a good team.”

Booker’s offensive rebound helped keep a Nets possession alive that led to two Lopez free throws that stretched the Nets' lead to 107-101 with 14.9 remaining.

The Nets got four 3-pointers from the 7-foot Lopez and 10 rebounds from the 6-foot-4 Kilpatrick, who spent a chunk of the second half playing the point with Lin sidelined. It spoke to the kind of fully engaged team effort that fueled this win.

Lopez finished with 34 points and 11 rebounds shooting 12-of-21 from the field and Kilpatrick had a double-double of his own with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Kilpatrick made 8-of-13 from the field and all four of his 3-point attempts. 

After Lopez got the Nets going early, Kilpatrick came off the bench blazing. Bridging the first and second quarters he pumped in 12 points in less than five minutes.

With Lin out of the game, Isaiah Whitehead opened the second half at point guard, but it wasn’t long before Kilpatrick took a turn. He ended up playing 18 second-half minutes.

“Sean played that offense all summer,” Atkinson said. “In Summer League he played a ton of point guard, he was handling the ball. I told him at halftime just pretend it was Summer League. Bring the ball up and get us into motion.”

The Nets stretched their lead to 21 points in the opening minute of the second half, but Detroit was within 11 going into the fourth. Kilpatrick opened the final quarter with a drive to the basket and two free throws. With the Net lead down to 96-91, he knocked down a top-of-the-key 3-pointer to give the Nets some room. After a Lopez dunk, Kilpatrick fed a cutting Joe Harris for a 103-95 lead with just under three minutes to go. 

Scintillating shooting and some old-fashioned muscle from Lopez lifted the Nets to a 71-55 halftime lead. 

The 7-footer shot 9-of-12 in the first half — including 4-of-5 from 3-point range — while piling up 24 points in just 14 minutes. Since making his first 3-point attempt of the year in the season-opener in Boston, Lopez had missed his last seven. But with that first-half barrage he doubled his career total of makes from behind the arc.

“It was a point of emphasis before the game,” said Atkinson of the strong start. “We need to get off to better starts. We need to start quarters better. Playing catch-up in this league — I know until that last game we’ve been good in the fourth quarter — we have to do a better job, especially defensively. It gives you such good morale when you start out with stop, stop, stop. Definitely an area we’ve got to improve and we did a decent job tonight.”

Lopez picked up the the rest of his first-half points on a diet of vintage post-ups and some impressive work putting the ball on the floor to get to the rim. It was the kind of balance Atkinson said he was looking for from his center a few days earlier.

“He’s supremely skilled,” said the coach prior to Monday night’s game against the Bulls. “He can do all of it.”

And on this night, he wasn’t alone in that fast start. The Nets shot 70 percent from the field in the first half and 69 percent from 3-point range. They had 19 assists on their 29 makes with Kilpatrick adding 15 first-half points on 6-of-7 shooting — a perfect 3-for-3 from 3-point range — and Lin dropping in 10.