Nothing but Nets: Pistons run into a Brooklyn buzz saw in season’s first back to back


Three quick observations from Sunday night’s 117-91 loss to the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center

NOTHING BUT NETS – The Brooklyn Nets looked like the team Las Vegas oddsmakers and a poll of NBA general managers peg as the overwhelming title favorites when the Pistons got their first glimpse of them this season, shooting 67 percent in the first half on their way to a runaway win. Kevin Durant led the onslaught, scoring 23 points on 10 of 13 shooting and draining contested jump shots as if they were layups. James Harden picked up the baton midway through the third quarter, finishing with a triple-double: 18 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists. The Nets were ahead 85-68 with 3:23 left in the third quarter when Durant was ejected for a forearm and elbow thrust into the neck and head of Kelly Olynyk, setting a pick on Durant at the time. The Pistons got four points out of the possession – Olynyk’s two free throws and a Cory Joseph jump shot – to cut the deficit to 13 and it seemed like an opening for a comeback. But the Nets ran off 11 straight points to take their biggest lead at 24 as the Pistons ran out of gas on a back to back after grabbing their first win Saturday night. The Pistons got just 37 points from their starting lineup. Jerami Grant scored 11 but was saddled with foul trouble. Rookie Jamorko Pickett played the final four minutes and scored his first NBA points, draining a 3-pointer seconds after entering the game. Cory Joseph led the Pistons with 13 points. 

PLAYING IT SAFE – Cade Cunningham didn’t play at Brooklyn but not because the No. 1 pick suffered any setbacks from Saturday’s NBA debut. It was the plan all along, Dwane Casey said, to have him skip the second game of a back to back after missing a month with a sprained ankle incurred in the first week of training camp. The Pistons have another back to back later this week, but Casey said Cunningham isn’t being held out of future back to backs as of now. Without Cunningham, Casey opted to start Hamidou Diallo, who didn’t play in Saturday’s win over Orlando. Starting Diallo accomplished two things: One, it allowed Casey to keep intact a second unit that scored 59 of the team’s 110 points in Saturday’s win; two, it gave Casey the best defensive option to guard James Harden. Diallo did great work on Harden, though he only played 11 minutes over the first three quarters before getting more run in the fourth quarter. The bench contributed 54 points at Brooklyn. One member of that bench who’s solidified his standing over the season’s first six games is Trey Lyles, who had eight points, four rebounds and three assists in less than 17 minutes.

GOOD STUFF – Dwane Casey talked before Sunday’s game about Killian Hayes, who played his 32nd career game Sunday, essentially still being a rookie. “He’s just getting his feet wet in the NBA. You can see him growing. He’s pushing the pace, getting more confident in his shot. We really like him. He’s a tough kid. The future is bright for him.” Hayes showed some good things in Sunday’s game, including five steals to tie a career high and success in probing Brooklyn’s interior defense. Hayes picked up four of the first six Pistons points on strong moves to the basket – a layup and two free throws – an area where he’s struggling with his efficiency so far. In a span of about 25 seconds a little later, he picked off a James Harden pass with great anticipation in the passing lane, pushed the ball downcourt and whipped a pinpoint pass to Jerami Grant for a wide-open corner three and – when Grant’s shot bounced off and created a Brooklyn transition chance – hustled back downcourt and drew a charge on Kevin Durant. Hayes got himself another two points at the line with another strong drive later in the first half.