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Pistons defense goes astray, win streak ends at 3

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

New York —  In the city that never sleeps, the Pistons’ defense had a hard time waking up. It seemingly didn’t make the trip at all.

After holding the last three opponents under 90 points, the Pistons had begun to gain some confidence with their defense.

That all went in the Hudson River on Wednesday night.

The Nets hit their first nine field goals, shot 80 percent from the field in the first quarter and shredded the Pistons’ defense, taking a 109-101 victory at Barclays Center and snapping the Pistons' three-game win streak.

BOX SCORE: Knicks 109, Pistons 101

Center Brook Lopez dominated with 34 points and 11 rebounds for the Nets (2-3), who beat the Pistons for the fourth time in the last five meetings in Brooklyn. Lopez had been 4-of-38 on 3-pointers in his career but took advantage of his opportunities against the Pistons, erupting for 4-of-8 from beyond the arc on Wednesday.

“He killed us,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “Obviously, I’m not happy.”

But it wasn’t just Lopez. The Nets shot 80 percent in the first quarter and 71 percent in the first half, jumping out to a 16-point halftime lead.

Tobias Harris and Marcus Morris had 23 points each for the Pistons (3-2), who snapped their three-game win streak, playing their third game in four nights.

It’s difficult to explain how the Pistons, who had been making some gains on defense, had one of their worst defensive performances against the Nets, who have had their struggles the past few seasons.

“We can’t. We didn’t defend well and we’re a way better defensive team than that,” Morris said. “Give them credit: they played hard, pushed it and set the tempo.”

Van Gundy saw early in the game that the Pistons didn’t have the intensity and effort necessary to get the stops. It started early with Drummond guarding Lopez and spread throughout the rest of the first half, as they gave up 34 points in the paint (17-of-25 field goals) in the first half.

“We didn’t guard anybody. We came with no energy. We couldn’t keep up with their pace; we couldn’t guard them on a pick-and-roll,” Van Gundy said. “They played very well, moved the ball, shot the ball very well. They outplayed us for 48 minutes in every aspect of the game.”

Lopez got started early, scoring the Nets’ first basket on a dunk, igniting a 14-2 spurt after Ish Smith’s opening 3-pointer. Lopez had seven points in the run, including a drive and a three-point play. He hit his first 3-pointer at the 6:51 mark and Jeremy Lin (10 points) followed with a layup, pushing the margin to 22-12.

The Nets’ first miss didn’t come until the 6:03 mark, on Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s jumper. But Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (15 points) responded with a three-point play and added a steal and layup, to cut the lead in half.

Harris, Morris inject offense into Pistons' frontcourt

Lopez added his second 3-pointer and Andre Drummond, who was limited to six points and six rebounds in 25 minutes, got his first points on a hook. The Pistons answered with a 9-2 stretch, with two free throws by Harris, a baseline jumper by Jon Leuer and a triple by Caldwell-Pope.

Drummond was ineffective on both ends of the floor and after the first stint in the third quarter, didn’t play the rest of the game.

“We gave him the first half and the first seven minutes of the second half and in my opinion, he was bringing absolutely no energy to the game. I don’t know if he was tired or what the deal was,” Van Gundy said. “We put (Aron) Baynes in the game and we started to play a lot better and a lot harder. It’s a matter of sticking with the guy who was getting the job done and we needed to play hard at that point.”

The Pistons got within one, but the Nets finished the period on a 9-2 run, with back-to-back baskets by Sean Kilpatrick (24 points), a layin by Joe Harris and another lay-in at the buzzer by Kilpatrick.

In the second quarter, the Pistons closed to 47-43 after a basket by Leuer, but the Nets responded with a 10-2 stretch, punctuated by consecutive 3-pointers by Kilpatrick and Lopez, pushing the lead to 55-43. They took their largest lead of the half on a 3-pointer by Harris and another by Lopez.

That started a streak of seven straight points by Lopez and the Nets finished the half with the last seven points — including Lopez’s fourth 3-pointer and a lay-in by Harris, for a 71-55 halftime lead.

Niyo: Pistons knuckle down for playoff days ahead

Near the end of the third quarter, the Pistons looked to be out of it, but scored eight straight, with two free throws by Caldwell-Pope and a putback by Baynes at the third-quarter buzzer to make it 92-81. Morris hit a jumper and added a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 92-86 with 9:40 left.

Morris added a three-point play to make it 96-89 and Lopez missed two free throws, but the Pistons missed their opportunities at the free-throw line, as Harris and Morris each split a pair of tries and only were able to trim the lead to 96-91.

Kilpatrick added another 3-pointer and the Pistons traded baskets the rest of the way. The Pistons pulled within 105-101 after Harris made a 3-pointer with 38.9 seconds left. But Lopez helped put the game away with four free throws in the final minute.

Lin missed the second half after suffering a strained left hamstring.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard