Pistons hold Nets to 100, but it doesn’t add up to a win on a night they fire blanks from 3

Delon Wright
Delon Wright scored 13 points and 2 of his 3 3-point tries on a night the Pistons hit just 25 percent of their triples in a loss at Brooklyn
Ned Dishman (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

Dwane Casey wasn’t a math major at Kentucky, but he knows enough about how numbers add up to understand a fundamental truth of the NBA as we know it today: You can’t make enough 2-pointers to keep up.

For a Pistons team that began the season with questions about where the 3-point shooting would come, those questions get louder with the departures of volume shooters like Blake Griffin and Svi Mykhailiuk, the latter sent to Oklahoma City on Saturday for another of the athletic, tough, young, rangy athletes Troy Weaver is stocking on their shelves, Hamidou Diallo.

They missed 19 straight on Saturday after making their first three to open the game, going more than 26 minutes of game time between makes.

“Nineteen threes in a row? There you have it,” Delon Wright said when told of the cold stretch. “We have to make shots. I feel like we got good looks, so that’s a good thing. Just have to knock ’em down.”

“In today’s game, you’ve got to make 3-point shots,” Casey said. “We were 8 for 32. We’re a 3-point shooting team. That’s something we’ve really got to continue to work on. We got great looks. Our offense is structured around 3-point shooting. To beat a team like this, you’ve got to make threes. I was encouraged with our defense, but in today’s game you’ve got to make threes.”

The fact the Pistons went through that stretch of miserable shooting and still found a way to come back from the 12-point deficit they faced after three quarters to take the lead with three minutes left speaks to the resilience and competitiveness of the team Weaver has put together and Casey has motivated despite the 10-28 record.

The Pistons outrebounded Brooklyn 47-35, committed just 13 turnovers and recorded nine steals and eight blocked shots. But all it got them was a loss.

“It’s frustrating a little bit,” said Rodney McGruder, who continues to make an impression, contributing 10 points, seven rebounds and three steals in 28 minutes off the bench. “We put ourselves in a position to have a chance to win the game all the way down to the last three minutes. We defended them well. We made things tough for them offensively, but they made more shots at the end of the game.”

And by “they,” he means “James Harden.” Casey’s bromide that you can’t score enough twos to keep up, well, if you have Harden, maybe you can. The Nets were even less potent from the 3-point arc than the Pistons – they made two fewer and shot 22 percent to Detroit’s 25 percent – but Brooklyn shot 61 percent on 2-point shots to the Pistons’ 49 percent.

Harden racked up 10 assists in a 24/10/10 triple-double, spoon feeding DeAndre Jordan for a handful of lob dunks, and then in the final two minutes he morphed from facilitator to scorer. After a Mason Plumlee put-back completed a 12-2 Pistons run to give them a 91-90 lead with 2:59 to play, Harden scored Brooklyn’s final 10 points.

“He did what he always does,” Wright said. “Makes it tough on the defense. He can score in the paint area and also is capable of finding shooters. We just didn’t come away with enough stops.”

“It just goes to show the type of player he is and what he brings to any team that he plays for,” said McGruder, who split duties with Saddiq Bey in guarding Harden. “You’ve got to tip your hat to him, for sure.”

Jerami Grant led the Pistons with 22 points, but he wasn’t immune to the 3-point freeze, either, making 1 of 5. Bey was 2 of 9. And the bench, minus a volume 3-point shooter with the trading of Mykhailiuk and the elevation of Wayne Ellington to the starting lineup, was a combined 0 of 7 from the arc. Brooklyn gave itself some breathing room in the third quarter primarily on the strength of 11 late points from Landry Shamet off of its bench. He hit all three of his triples.

“They have firepower coming off the bench as far as the 3-point shooters are concerned,” Casey said a little wistfully. “He’s that 3-point shooter coming off the bench who makes shots. I think he was 3 for 3 in that crucial stretch when the game was in the balance.”

The Pistons did a lot to offer them encouragement at Brooklyn, holding the NBA’s top offense 21 points under its average, mounting another comeback and playing without Mykhailiuk and backup point guard Dennis Smith Jr., who’s out due to health and safety protocols. But that encouragement was tempered by the frustration they felt because, as Casey was quick to note, “it doesn’t translate to a win.”

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