NBA Basketball

Playoff positioning at stake as Nets host Pistons

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The Detroit Pistons and Brooklyn Nets are vying for playoff positioning. Should the teams finished tied in the standings, the winner of the head-to-head tiebreaker would get the higher seed.

Since the teams are playing three times, the tiebreaker will be decided Monday night when the Pistons visit the Nets.

The teams split two meetings in the opening weeks of the regular season with the home team victorious each time. Detroit won 103-100 win in its season opener on Oct. 17, and Brooklyn claimed a 120-119 overtime victory on Oct. 31.

Since those two early meetings, the teams have taken various trajectories to get into contention in a crowded field.

Detroit heads to Brooklyn at 34-31 with five straight wins and a half-game lead over the Nets for sixth place. The Pistons have matched their longest winning streak of the season and are 13-3 in their last 16 games since falling to 21-28 on Jan. 29.

Detroit's latest win was a mostly stress-free 131-108 home win over the Chicago Bulls on Sunday afternoon when Blake Griffin scored 28 points and Andre Drummond collected 16 points and 15 rebounds.

The Pistons scored 42 points in the third quarter, tallied a season-high 34 assists and recorded their seventh double-digit win of this hot stretch.

After playing at Brooklyn, the Pistons will travel to Miami to face the Heat on Wednesday.

"Two teams that are neck-and-neck with us, so we've got to look at those as important games," Detroit coach Dwane Casey said on Sunday. "But from my standpoint, today's and Friday night's game was just as important, because if you don't take care of business in these games, those will be meaningless anyway. We've got to come out and play to our identity, (have) quicker starts and continue to do what we're doing and playing with tremendous confidence."

During its winning streak, Detroit is averaging 123 points per game and shooting 52.5 percent.

"We're playing basketball the right way," Griffin said "We're making extra passes and we're trusting each other. If you do that, you'll eventually get hot."

Brooklyn is 27-15 since winning only eight of its first 26 games. The Nets also have won three straight after going 5-10 from Jan. 28-March 2.

The Nets halted a three-game losing streak with home wins over Dallas and Cleveland last week and then sweated out a 114-112 win in Atlanta on Saturday.

Spencer Dinwiddie scored 23 points and defended rookie Trae Young effectively enough to force him to pass to Vince Carter, who missed a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer. The last possession capped a game where the Nets missed 21 free throws but closed the game out with a 10-3 spurt.

"We all knew this was a big week for us," Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson said. "Very important with the home games, and this was circled on our calendar, a game you've got to get. So mission accomplished. Now obviously we got a bigger game Monday against a team we're competing with for a playoff spot."

Like many teams, the Nets have struggled to contain Griffin and Drummond. The duo torched Brooklyn for a combined 50 points and 28 rebounds in the first meeting and then totaled 49 and 32 boards in the second meeting.

Jared Dudley was Brooklyn's starting power forward in the first two meetings but this time it will be rookie Rodions Kurucs, who played only 11 minutes in the first two meetings.

Kurucs is averaging 15 points and 6.3 rebounds in his three starts since being inserted into the starting lineup due to Treveon Graham's back injury.

--Field Level Media

Updated March 11, 2019

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