Three quick observations from Thursday night’s 130-122 win over the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center
BOUNCING BACK – In the game after the Pistons gave up a season-worst 49 points in a quarter, they scored a season-best 43 points in Thursday’s third quarter. And after one of their most dispiriting losses of the season, they bounced back in Brooklyn for one of their most uplifting wins. It was a perfect storm in Monday’s loss, the Pistons clearly out of the normal rhythm of the season with a cross-Atlantic trip thrown into the middle of January and facing a Milwaukee team buoyed by the returns of its two best players. The Pistons did it with one of their most balanced scoring distributions of the season, too. They had seven players hit double figures before scoring leader Bojan Bogdanovic, who finished with 11 points after scoring two on 1 of 7 shooting in the first half. His free throws with 20 seconds left sealed the win. Saddiq Bey scored 15 of his 25 points in the third quarter, recovering from a slow start. The Pistons led by three after a strong first quarter, sparked by Jaden Ivey scoring all of their first 12 points on 4 of 4 shooting and 3 of 3 free throws in the first four minutes, and trailed by one at halftime before their 43-point third quarter. Ivey and Killian Hayes both finished with 16 points and Ivey’s eight assists led the Pistons.
CHANGING UP – Alec Burks made his first start of the season, a move that allowed Dwane Casey a little easier time in keeping a point guard on the floor for 48 minutes on a night that Killian Hayes returned and Cory Joseph was out. Hayes missed Monday’s loss to Milwaukee after suffering a shoulder contusion late in last week’s Paris game vs. Chicago but was back Thursday. Joseph, though, was ruled out with back soreness. Burks, averaging 13.3 points and shooting a career-best .436 from the 3-point line, scored an extraordinarily efficient 20 points: He hit 6 of 9 shots, 3 of 4 from the 3-point arc and 5 of 6 free throws. He also had four rebounds and five assists in 30 minutes.
Burks also had the supreme challenge of guarding Kyrie Irving, voted an All-Star starter when results were revealed Thursday prior to tipoff, though it was hardly a one-man blueprint. Irving’s 40 points led Brooklyn. Isaiah Livers, after one game as a starter, came off the bench in Brooklyn perhaps in part because he was considered a game-time decision after turning an ankle in Monday’s game. He also took some time guarding Irving and he made some key defensive hustle plays during the second half.
1-2 PUNCH – The Pistons haven’t had more than one big man available for several games and several more with only two fit to play. Isaiah Stewart has been in and out of the lineup with left shoulder soreness but he returned at Brooklyn after missing Monday’s game with Milwaukee, though Dwane Casey chose to bring him off the bench and keep rookie Jalen Duren in the starting lineup. Duren, who missed five games earlier this month with an ankle injury, finished with 17 points and seven rebounds. Five of his seven buckets, layups or dunks, were set up by nice feeds from fellow rookie Jaden Ivey but credit Duren for his ability to make tough catches in traffic and convert without getting stripped. Stewart finished with 11 points and five rebounds in 20 minutes. The Pistons didn’t play their two young big men together at any point in Thursday’s game. Nerlens Noel did not play but was available.