AUBURN HILLS, MICH. — It sure has been an eventful week for the Nets: starting point guard Jarrett Jack was lost for the season with a knee injury, Brook Lopez was named Eastern Conference player of the week for the previous seven days, a report in Europe suggested they might be getting a Russian general manager and a report in Boston implied they are ready to deal.
The games are another story. They tend to be a problem for the Nets, who have lost four of those in a row, including the 103-89 defeat to the Pistons Saturday night at The Palace. They did make it interesting, coming within two late in the third quarter. But, continuing a recent pattern, the opposition wore down the Nets in the fourth with its skill and depth, steadily pulling away.
Actually, the endings aren’t their only problem. They continued a week-long theme of getting off to a poor start, nearly getting run out of the Palace by the Pistons’ fast break and being fortunate only to be down by 10. All told, they have lost the past four first quarters by 41 points.
“We’ve just got to come out with more energy,” said starting point guard Shane Larkin, who had trouble containing Reggie Jackson. The Pistons point guard had 10 of his 23 points in the first quarter. “We can’t be down 10, 15 points in the first quarter and expect to come back.”
Larkin acknowledged that Donald Sloan, his backup in the new post-Jack era, lit a fire under the team and kept it interesting. “He came in today and did a great job, he led the team,” Larkin said. Sloan had a solid game — 15 points and 10 assists — and restored order late in the first quarter with a dribble, drive and jam that cut the deficit to 10.
Still, that was not enough. Not against the likes of Andre Drummond (23 points, 11 rebounds), Ersan Ilyasova (19 points, 13 rebounds) and the rest of a resurgent Pistons team that was 12-24 last Jan. 9 and is now 21-16. The Nets can only aspire to a turnaround like that.
“It had nothing to do with the back-to-back. We put ourselves in a hole in the first quarter,” Brook Lopez said after he led the Nets with 19 points, including a three-point play that made it 64-62. “We were in a deficit the majority of the game. We got back to within six going into the fourth and it got away from us pretty quickly then.”
That happened despite the fact the Nets had three things going for them: Location, location, location. They were sprung from Barclays Center, where they have lost nine in a row and on the road, where they had won three of the previous four.
“It just seems like we’re much more together on the road,” Lionel Hollins said. “In New York, there’s a different vibe as a group, and on the road our vibe is togetherness, focus, purpose.”
Still, he had to try everything (including starting Markel Brown over Bojan Bogdanovic) and everyone (Andrea Bargnani even played 5 minutes, 47 seconds). In the end, nothing helped. It was the same story, and a lost week.
Notes & quotes: Unlike the Nets, the Pistons have a point guard surplus. Brandon Jennings, a capable starter, returned recently from a ruptured Achilles that kept him out for nearly a year. He backs up Reggie Jackson. “They’re playing much faster, even faster than they were earlier,” Lionel Hollins said “They’ve got a couple of guards who can really push the ball, no matter which point guard is in the game.” Jennings, who will be an unrestricted free agent in July, could be a good fit for the Nets, although on Saturday he told Detroit reporters, “all I get is Knicks feed in my Twitter mentions.”
Jennings did look rusty, going scoreless in 15 minutes.