Too much Harden to close after Pistons claw back to take late lead at Brooklyn


Three quick observations from Saturday night’s 100-95 loss to the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center

BROOKLYN’S REVENGE – History says if you’re not a top 10 defensive team, you’re probably not winning an NBA title. The Nets are a long way from a top-10 defense – they came into Saturday’s rematch with the Pistons ranked 26th in the NBA – but they appear on the upswing. The Pistons scored a 122-111 win over the Nets on Feb. 9, but Brooklyn is an NBA-best 12-1 since then and held the Pistons to 95 points in Saturday’s loss. The Nets were without Kevin Durant and ex-Pistons great Blake Griffin on Saturday, but got a triple-double (24 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) from James Harden – and three big baskets in the last two minutes after the Pistons overcame a 12-point deficit to start the fourth quarter to go ahead by a point with three minutes left. The Pistons – missing Dennis Smith Jr., out due to health and safety protocols, along with recently traded Svi Mykhailiuk – didn’t have enough scoring punch this time around to challenge Brooklyn’s defense. They shot 40.4 percent and with that type of shooting they couldn’t put together a sustained run until a 12-2 spurt midway through the fourth quarter gave them the one-point lead. The Pistons did manage to hold the NBA’s highest-scoring team 21 points below its scoring average, but didn’t have enough punch at the other end to make it pay off.

3-POINT PUNCH – The Pistons have done a good job adhering to Dwane Casey’s shot spectrum that emphasizes shots at the rim, free throws and 3-point shots. But 3-point accuracy – a question mark to start the season – becomes an even bigger issue with the trade of Svi Mykhailiuk, who shot them in volume and was a 40 percent shooter last season before slumping to 33 percent in 2020-21. The Pistons opened Saturday’s loss at Brooklyn by draining their first three 3-point shots – Wayne Ellington, Saddiq Bey and Jerami Grant – and then missed their next 17 to close the half. They missed their first two of the second half before Delon Wright broke a drought that spanned 19 shots and more than 26 minutes of playing time. The Pistons finished 8 of 32 from the 3-point line. With Mykhailiuk gone and Ellington elevated to the starting lineup in his place, the second unit currently lacks a proven 3-point threat. Casey’s bench has been the NBA’s highest-scoring second unit this season at 41.8 points a game. They scored 27 at Brooklyn and went 0 for 7 from the 3-point line. The Pistons are 12th in 3-point attempts per game (36.2) and 10th in 3-point attempt rate (41.5 percent).

THE NEW GUY – Hamidou Diallo, whose trade to the Pistons became official before tipoff, wasn’t available for this game – he’ll have to quarantine upon arrival in Detroit – but if he had been, you can bet he’d have been squarely in the mix to guard James Harden. Defense is Diallo’s best NBA skill, though he’s averaging career highs in scoring (11.0), rebounding (5.2) and assists (2.4) in 24 minutes a game during his time in Oklahoma City. Diallo could wind up taking the place of the player Oklahoma City took back from the Pistons, Svi Mykhailiuk, as the starter at shooting guard once he’s cleared to return from a strained groin that has sidelined him since he last played Feb. 24. Diallo, 22, won the NBA’s 2019 Slam Dunk championship and he recorded a 45½-inch vertical leap at the 2018 draft combine.