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Ben Simmons, Cam Thomas and Cam Johnson watch from bench as Nets fall to league-worst Pistons

Nets fans woke up to the unsettling news that Ben Simmons, who appeared in just 15 games, would miss the remainder of the season because of a nagging lower back injury. To worsen matters before their five-game road trip began Thursday night against the Detroit Pistons, the team announced that Cam Johnson, Cam Thomas and Day’Ron Sharpe would remain out as well.

Short-handed and undoubtedly disheartened by Thursday’s grim revelations, Brooklyn started slowly at both ends of the court inside Little Caesars Arena and found itself trailing 26-8 with 1:34 left in the first quarter. However, the game did not evolve into a blowout from there, and Kevin Ollie’s team fought back admirably — fueled by a season-high 31 points from Dennis Schröder.

But the Nets had no defensive answers in clutch time, losing grip of the game late and falling 118-112 on the road. The team had won six games in Detroit entering the night.

All things considered; Brooklyn deserves credit for the fortitude it displayed in the face of adversity. After trailing Detroit by as many as 18 points early, and not cracking double figures on the scoreboard until the final minute of the first quarter, it roared back with a 21-8 run that stretched into the second quarter to cut its deficit to five points.

The Nets’ captured their first lead of the night with 2:47 left in the second quarter, courtesy of a 7-0 run.

Lonnie Walker IV, who entered the day listed as questionable because of illness, led the rally. The reserve guard scored 10 of his 21 points in the second quarter on 5-of-7 shooting (3-of-5 from deep). The game changed in general when Ollie went to his bench after the slow start — especially on offense. Cuts were sharper. Brooklyn played at a faster pace. And the team began to capitalize on Detroit’s sloppiness.

The Nets wound up shooting 53.7% from the field in the first half and took a 57-54 advantage into the locker room. However, when the dust settled from Thursday’s third-quarter shootout, it was the Pistons who had a four-point lead entering the final frame. The third quarter had all of the makings of a shootout early on, but Detroit snatched momentum with a 12-0 run.

The game was tied at 98 with 6:32 left in regulation, but that is when Brooklyn ran out of gas. Down the stretch, it could not keep Detroit off the free throw line (9-of-10) or protect the rim (7-of-10). A 9-0 Pistons run late proved to be the difference.

The Pistons scored 56 points in the paint, scored 16 points off 14 Nets turnovers and went 20-of-21 from the charity stripe.

Brooklyn fell to 25-38 with Thursday’s loss and is now 3.5 games behind the Atlanta Hawks for 10th place in the Eastern Conference. Schröder shot 12-of-17 from the field in what was a season-best performance. Cade Cunningham led Detroit with 32 points, five rebounds and 11 assists.

The Nets’ road trip will continue on Saturday against the Charlotte Hornets.


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