By Jason Schott - @JESchott19
The Nets' new mantra for the rest of the playoffs should be, "We'll rest when it's over," a variation on the popular phrase "I'll sleep when I'm dead."
Nets Head Coach Jason Kidd did the very questionable thing of resting starters Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, and Paul Pierce for the entire fourth quarter when the game was not entirely out of reach. Kevin Garnett entered the game for Plumlee with 7:05 remaining and the Heat ahead 85-70. KG was pulled soon after, at the 5:50 mark for the ineffective Andrei Kirilenko.
Miami played their starters, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Mario Chalmers, the rest of the way, as they had the right to. In playoff basketball, whether you're up 15 or down 15, your starters play the game out. There is no "garbage time" in playoff basketball.
After Johnson's heroics last week in Toronto, in which he led a comeback from 26 points down in Game 5 to help the Nets tie it up, he should be in there for every fourth quarter. It is so painfully obvious that it is hard to believe it needs to be stated.
Johnson was shooting the ball well all night, and kept the Nets in the game when Miami started to pull away in the second quarter. He had 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting and was 3-for-6 from behind the arc. Williams had a nice game as well, as he had 17 points as well on 7-10 from the field and 3-6 on 3-pointers. Garnett and Pierce had tough nights, as KG was held scoreless in 16 minutes, and missed his only two shots, while Pierce had 8 points on 3-for-8 shooting.
Going back to Game 1 in Toronto, when Paul Pierce scored nine points down the stretch to get the Nets a win, Kidd credited Pierce for something else he did Pierce found Garnett for an open jumper from the top of the key with a few minutes left in the game when KG had not had a basket till that point. It showed that the Nets have faith that you can perform no matter what has happened. Apparenty, that went out the window by the fifth game of the series when Pierce and Garnett were benched.
It is unconscionable to think that a coach would essentially throw in the towel on a playoff game because his team just went through a grueling seven-game first round series and is not at its best. Also, one thing Kidd might have forgotten is how spread out the first round was. They played seven games in 16 calendar days. This is not a situation like the New York Rangers hockey team went through, where they played five games in seven nights between the end of the first round series with Phiadelphia and the start of the second series with Pittsburgh. I didn't hear one Ranger complain, although it was evident by the third game of the Pittsburgh series on Monday night that they were exhausted.
Kidd said of playing the bench in the fourth, "Well, I wanted to get those guys, the starters, a break, get them some rest, and when we went with that group, I thought that group could make some shots, but also get some stops, and get it under ten, but it never happened."
Pierce said after Tuesday's game, "It was a three-point game at the half, fellas. I mean, we're not overreacting. We feel like we can still get a game in this building. You know, so we've just got to think this is minor. I think it's minor, some of the things we've got to do. We didn't give no resistance, and you know, we still was in the game for the most part, until the end of the third quarter."
I can't remember one instance in crunch time of a playoff game when Phil Jackson ever left Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal and Derek Fisher on the bench in Los Angeles, or Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Steve Kerr on the bench in Chicago.
If this were the Dallas Mavericks, and they were down 15 points early in the fourth, and it looked like Dirk Nowitzki will not be going in, Mark Cuban would make his way over to coach Rick Carlisle and inform him that Nowitzki will be entering, and that he doesn't really don't care to hear his reason for keeping him out.
I wonder if General Manager Billy King spoke to Kidd in much the same way today. He brought in Pierce and Garnett to perform in the playoffs, and in two of the Nets' eight playoff games, they have not entered the fourth quarter. To rest D-Will and Joe in the fourth is pure insanity.
All season, the mantra has been rest and keeping this older players healthy. The thinking was that this stuff would go out the window come playoff time. Instead, Kidd has continued this thinking, with the only exception being when they were on the brink of elimination in the Toronto series. In Game 6 of that series, Garnett played 27 minutes and scored 13 points with five rebounds, and followed that up with a double-double in Game 7, with 12 points and 11 rebounds in 25 minutes. It was the best Garnett looked all season and the Nets won both games. Enough said.
Because of this stunt, Game 2 is an absolute must-win because, if they lose, they will face the monumental task of having to win four of five games. There should be no minutes restrictions, and if there are, it might start to get ugly, and Garnett and Pierce will not keep giving these tired, good soldier answers after games and start complaining.