The Detroit Pistons and Brooklyn Nets will oppose each other on Wednesday for the second time in five days.
This time, the atmosphere will be different in Brooklyn as NBA players continue to fight their emotions following the death of Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash in Southern California on Sunday.
Brooklyn broke a five-game losing streak Saturday night with a 121-111 overtime victory in Detroit when Kyrie Irving scored 45 points. Irving's second-highest points total in a Nets uniform occurred on the same night LeBron James passed Bryant for third place on the all-time scoring list while playing for the Los Angeles Lakers in Philadelphia.
Irving was doing his pregame shooting routine Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden about three hours before the game against the New York Knicks when he found out Bryant died. Irving, who was mentored by Bryant, left the arena and did not play.
"It was an emotional locker room. It was a quiet locker room. No one spoke for whatever, three hours before we tipped off," Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. "No one really spoke. Sometimes there are no words and I didn't have any words to console them."
Without Irving, the Nets took a 110-97 loss in a game that many hoped would be canceled. Spencer Dinwiddie scored 23 points, a little over a month after posting 39 against the Atlanta Hawks in Brooklyn with Bryant sitting courtside. Having grown up in Los Angeles, he also was impacted by the news.
"I was born in '93. He was drafted in '96. Grew up in South Central Los Angeles. He was everything to my generation," Dinwiddie said. "There's a whole generation of kids, L.A. kids. That was our childhood."
It is unclear if Irving will play Wednesday but it is likely the first two possessions of the game will end with a 24-second violation and an eight-second violation to pay tribute to Bryant, who wore those numbers in a 20-year career that ended in 2016. Other teams have paid tribute in that manner.
Neither team enters Wednesday playing well of late.
The Nets lost five straight to upper-echelon opponents before Saturday and are 3-13 in their 16 games since Dec. 21, with 10 of those defeats coming by double digits.
Detroit has lost three straight, all by double digits, and is 5-10 in 15 games since Blake Griffin last played on Dec. 28. Griffin is out for the season following season-ending knee left knee surgery. The Pistons also are 6-16 in their 22 games since Dec. 14.
Detroit followed up Saturday's loss to the Nets with a 115-100 home loss to the Cavaliers on Monday. The Pistons allowed Cleveland to shoot 50 percent, trailed by as many as 25 and allowed 64 points in the paint.
"This was not a high compete level," Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. "Our best defenders were getting blown by."
Reggie Jackson led the Pistons with 16 points while Andre Drummond finished with 15 after getting 20 points and 21 rebounds Saturday in a game that marked his fifth straight time with 20 boards against Brooklyn.
Detroit was without Derrick Rose (right knee soreness), Luke Kennard (knee tendinitis) and Tony Snell (illness). Rose sat out Monday after being listed as probable and has 20 points in 12 straight games, the longest by a Piston since Jerry Stackhouse did it for 22 consecutive games during the 2000-01 season.
While Rose could return Wednesday, Kennard likely will miss his 19th straight game with the knee injury.
--Field Level Media