Pistons look to deal visiting Nets fifth straight defeat
After the Detroit Pistons lost to the Brooklyn Nets for the second time this season, coach Stan Van Gundy grumbled that the defense wasn’t giving his squad a chance to win games.
So it’s no wonder Detroit turned things around with solid defense before falling into some old habits at home.
Coming off their first loss in eight games, the Pistons hope to resume their unexpected climb in the Eastern Conference standings Saturday night when they try to deal the visiting Nets their fifth consecutive defeat (7 p.m. pregame, 7:30 tip-off on FOX Sports Detroit).
Detroit (12-24) allowed the Nets to shoot 52.6 percent from the floor Dec. 21 in its fourth straight loss, 110-105 at Brooklyn. At that time, the defensively challenged Pistons were 18 games under .500 and seven back of a playoff spot.
"That’s got to improve or we’re not going to have a chance to win," Van Gundy fumed after the game.
The Pistons took action by waiving underachieving Josh Smith the next day and began a seven-game winning streak. They gave up 90.2 points per game on 41.5 percent shooting over the last six games of the run.
Detroit, though, took a step back Friday by allowing East-best Atlanta to put up 64 first-half points before surrendering 42 over the final 24 minutes. The Pistons’ rally from a 23-point deficit fell short and the streak ended in a 106-103 defeat.
"There are positives to take out of this, because they didn’t give up on the game, and we made some plays to get back into it," said Van Gundy, whose club is now just three games out of eighth place in the East.
Detroit will try to bounce back against a Brooklyn team that has averaged 85.3 points during a four-game losing streak.
The Nets (16-20) are hoping to recover from a 90-88 home loss to lowly Philadelphia on Friday. Nerlens Noel had the winning dunk with three seconds left after Brook Lopez made a tying jumper with 25 seconds to go.
"This is tough," guard Joe Johnson said. "We’re in a bad rut right now and we got to find some way to get out of it."
Brooklyn is missing Deron Williams, who has a fractured rib, but Jarrett Jack has averaged 15.2 points in 11 games since replacing Williams in the starting lineup – starting when he had 15 with 10 assists in last month’s win over the Pistons.
Kevin Garnett had season highs of 18 points and 14 rebounds in a 102-90 win at Detroit on Nov. 1, when Johnson scored a season-best 34. Garnett is expected to return in this meeting after resting in the first of back-to-back games.
The Nets have allowed just 90.5 points per game over their last six, but they could be tested against a Detroit team that has averaged 107.3 points in its past eight.
Andre Drummond was ill Friday and finished with four points in 17 minutes. He had 18 points and 20 rebounds in last month’s matchup and is averaging 18.6 and 16.2 over his last five against the Nets.
Frontcourt mate Greg Monroe has averaged 17.0 points and 12.4 boards in his last five games.
Brooklyn’s Mason Plumlee, who has 31 points and 27 rebounds in his last two games, scored 21 with 12 boards while going 9 for 10 from the field in last month’s matchup with the Pistons.
The Nets have averaged 109.3 points and shot 53.6 percent while taking the last three meetings.