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Nets vs. Pistons: Brooklyn Goes on Back-to-Back Eyeing End to Slide

Through 43 games, the Brooklyn Nets have scored 50-plus points off the bench five times — and two of those occasions are in the last two games.

In Thursday night’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, some first-half surges from Wilson Chandler and Garrett Temple propelled Brooklyn to 70 first-half points. Add in 16 points from Caris LeVert, and the Nets got 55 points off the bench. That followed a 50-31 outscoring of Philadelphia’s bench on Monday keyed by LeVert and rookie Nic Claxton.

“I just saw a lot of positive things last night,” said Kenny Atkinson after Friday’s practice session. “The two big ones were Wilson really looking healthy and good, and then Garrett Temple — having those two back in the lineup is huge for us. I keep saying: The healthier we get, the better we'll be, and the results will come."

There has been a lot of lineup fluidity for Brooklyn this season, and Chandler and Temple — both signed over the offseason to be reliable veteran pieces off the bench — have been part of it in different ways. Chandler was sidelined for the first 25 games of the season due to a PED suspension. Temple moved into the starting lineup in mid-November after LeVert’s thumb injury, but still played a significant role with the second unit as the Nets staggered their guard rotations. He went back to the bench in early January, but soon missed three of four games due to a knee contusion before returning Monday against the Sixers.

“Adding some healthy guys, some vets that have played in this league that are really good players, that's really what it comes down to,” said Atkinson. “So that's the key to the whole thing, just keeping those guys in a good place."

There’s also LeVert, who has played off the bench since returning to action on Jan. 4. He’s scored in double figures in every game but one since then, and gives the second unit a more dynamic scoring and playmaking presence in the lead guard role than they had in the time he and Irving were out.

“It’s great, he’s a starter,” said Chandler. “Having him on the second unit is great for us, he can bail us out, get us a bucket, get us an assist, whatever we need.”

“We’re obviously better with him and his experience and his ability to handle the ball and make plays, but again, but he’s still looking to catch his rhythm,” said Atkinson. “We want him back where he was the 1st 10 games of the season last year, the playoffs. I know it’s in Caris. He has that in him. I think when he’s locked in 100%, feeling good his body, I think he’ll get to that level. He’s working hard to get there. He’ll get there.”

JORDAN RECEIVES NBA CARES AWARD

Brooklyn center DeAndre Jordan received the December NBA Cares Community Assist Award presented by Kaiser Permanent for his “6 Days of Giving” initiative around the holidays. During the month, Jordan hosted multiple community events in Brooklyn, Houston, and Los Angeles through his DeAndre Jordan’s Treehouse Giving foundation.

Jordan brought Brooklyn youth to the NBA’s flagship store for a shopping spree and game at Barclays Center, and provided a festive lunch for students in his hometown of Houston at the elementary school he attended among the events.

SCHEDULE FLIP

After a five-game stretch that included both conference-leaders and four games against teams ranked in the top five in the NBA defensively, the opponent profile flips a little bit for Brooklyn. The Nets’ next five games are all against teams sitting below them in the Eastern Conference, followed by some Western Conference visits to Barclays Center from Phoenix (18-26) and Golden State (10-36).

“There are no easy games, especially in the NBA,” said Kyrie Irving after Thursday’s game. “All these teams are gonna come at us. They know the type of position we’re in right now and what we’re fighting for. We acknowledge that fact. We’re just gonna come out there and compete and see where we end up. I know that I can do some things on the offensive end, just be more aggressive and put some defenses in some other positions that I did tonight. Just got to keep down my turnovers and get guys in the right spots and I feel like our offense will find some more continuity. Defensively I think we’re doing a sound job. Obviously just giving up some open shots here and there. We traded baskets for the first kind of two quarters. What was the score at halftime, 75-70 I think? So when games get up like that and they’re having a good rhythm they hit some open shots and they come in the third quarter and we end up being down 10, just moments like that we’ll continue to get better.”

The stretch opens up with this weekend’s road back-to-back against the Pistons and Knicks, followed by Detroit and Chicago in Brooklyn next week.

“There’s no lighten up,” said Atkinson. “It’s all on us. I really think that. You look at both Sixers games, and we’re there. I think Detroit is going to be tough, the Knicks are playing better. I’m just as fearful of those games as I was the past five games. I know if we play to our capabilities, the healthier we get, the better we get, the results will start coming.”

JORDAN, CLAXTON UPDATES

Brooklyn’s two reserve centers are both questionable for Saturday’s game in Detroit after missing Thursday’s game against the Lakers. DeAndre Jordan dislocated a finger in Philadelphia on Jan. 15 and Nic Claxton took a blow to his shoulder on a hard fall against the Sixers in Brooklyn on Monday. Kenny Atkinson said both players did on-court work at Friday’s practice session.

ABOUT THE PISTONS

This is the second meeting of the season between the Nets and Pistons. Detroit won 113-109 at home on Nov. 2 as Andre Drummond had 25 points and 20 rebounds. The Pistons went into Friday night’s game against Memphis with a 17-28 record, having won three of their previous four.

Drummond, who leads the league with 15.7 rebounds per game and is second in steals with 2.1 per game while averaging 17.3 points and shooting 53.1 percent, missed Detroit’s game against Sacramento and is listed as probable for Friday’s game against Memphis.

Derrick Rose leads the Pistons with 18.5 points and 5.9 assists per game while playing primarily off the bench before starting Detroit’s last four games going into Friday night’s game.

Despite Drummond’s league-leading rebounds, the Pistons are last in the league in rebounds per game as a team with 42.3. They are, however, 19th in rebound percentage (49.6). Detroit is ninth in the NBA in field goal percentage (46.9), including fourth in 3-point field goal percentage (37.3) but they are 27th in field goal attempts per game (85.4). The Pistons are 23rd in the league in pace (99.28).