The Pistons set a trap. The Nets got caught.
After a four-point loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday, the Nets dropped their sixth game in the eight they’ve played since Kevin Durant sustained an MCL sprain.
They lost to a Detroit Pistons team with the worst record in the Eastern Conference, 130-122.
The loss to the 76ers with Joel Embiid, James Harden, Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris all healthy was understandable. Losing to the Pistons without star guard Cade Cunningham, starting big man Marvin Bagley III and backup point guard Cory Joseph — at home — was embarrassing.
“We were expected to win tonight,” head coach Jacque Vaughn said after the loss. “That’s the goal: Whether it’s a back-to-back, four in five nights, three in four, four in six—it doesn’t matter. You do what’s necessary, whether that’s taking care of your body, the mental part of it, the work that goes on between days off, days off, between games, game day, to get yourself in position to win. That’s why we do this thing.”
Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 40 points on 14-of-27 shooting from the field, but the Nets struggled against the size of a Pistons team known for its physicality. Each of Detroit’s starters, with the exception of rookie Jaden Ivey, are 6-foot-5 or taller. The Pistons are a team known to hit their opponents first. Head coach Jacque Vaughn is still trying to get his team to understand they must be the aggressors.
“That’s a great way to look at it. It’s a challenge for us,” Vaughn said of the size discrepancy. “We talked about playing different lineups. Sometimes those lineups give us the opportunity to put 122 on the board. But now we’ve gotta worry about the other end. So a lot of that, Kristian, I think boils down to the early work of you reacting to those guys.
“You have to anticipate a shot going up, and then you hit first, and maybe the referee sees you getting pushed instead of you pushing. So overall, being prepared to have combat on plays. There’s nothing wrong with that word [combat] and nothing wrong with bringing that to the table every night.”
Seven different Pistons players scored in double figures, led by Saddiq Bey — the player who was drafted in 2020 with the pick Brooklyn traded to Detroit in the deal that ultimately landed the Nets Landry Shamet. Bey scored 25 points, hit five threes and grabbed nine rebounds. Alec Burks added 20 and rookie Jaden Ivey scored 12 of his 16 points in the first quarter alone.
Nic Claxton posted 27 points and 13 rebounds, and Edmond Sumner scored 24 off the bench. No other Nets scorers touched double figures. Royce O’Neale shot one-of-seven from the field, T.J. Warren shot one-of-five, Joe Harris shot three-of-nine and Ben Simmons left in the third quarter with left knee soreness. He finished 0-of-3 from the field and had seven assists in 20 minutes before checking out.
The Nets have an opportunity to bounce back against the Knicks on Saturday. They face the league-best Boston Celtics on Monday.