By Jason Schott - @JESchott19
The Knicks beat the Nets 109-98 on Tuesday night at Barclays Center, in a game that they dominated the whole way.
The Knicks led by as many as 21 in the second half, and it was hard not to think that if the Knicks played like this more often, they certainly would have made the playoffs.
Starting with the warmups, in which the Knicks drew oohs and ahs with some of their dunks, they were keyed into this one. The Nets, on the other hand, looked flat, and have the look of a team that can't wait for the playoffs to start, even if that means falling to the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Knicks jumped out to an 18-9 lead in the first six minutes, but the Nets came right back, and a Mason Plumlee dunk on an alley-oop made it 19-16 Knicks. But, just like that, New York closed the first quarter on a 10-2 run and had a 29-18 lead.
They maintained that throughout the second quarter and led 55-43 at halftime, and pulled away in the third quarter. The closest the Nets got was 12 points twice, after Deron Williams and Joe Johnson threes made it 63-51 New York at he 8:37 mark and a Marcus Thornton three made it 69-57 with 5:49 left. After that, the Knicks went on a 7-1 run and controlled it for the rest of the quarter, taking an 83-67 lead into the fourth. The mood was so low at this point in Barclays Center that announcer David Diamante did not do his rallying cry to "Stand Up!" to the crowd before the fourth quarter.
Nets Head Coach Jason Kidd was asked if he was concerned with how the team played tonight, he sternly said, "No." When pressed by Tim Bontemps of The Post, he elaborated, "It happens. There are 81 games. Sometimes you play well, sometimes you don't. We got another one to get better tomorrow."
Before the game, Kidd stressed that this game was about "getting better." Afterwards, he said, "I thought we got better. No one got hurt, so we'll move on to the next game."
Paul Pierce said of any frustration the team may have, and he said, "Well, yeah. Going into the playoffs, you want to start building good habits, and tonight was an example of how not to take a step forward. We were off our game offensively, and that's not how you want to go into the playoffs. No excuses about it. We have to be better."
The Nets were led by Marcus Thornton, who had 24 points (7-15 FG, 4-10 on 3-pt) off the bench. Mason Plumlee had 16 points off the bench on 7-for-9 from the field, basically all dunks and 9 rebounds. Paul Pierce had 13 points Joe Johnson had 12, and Deron Williams had 10 points and 1 assist.
Pierce did make some history, as he has now scored 1,000 points for 15 consecutive seasons. He is the first active player and sixth player in NBA history to do that. The other five are: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did it in 19 straight seasons, Karl Malone in 18 straight, John Havlicek 16, and Elvi Hayes and Robert Parish did it in 15 straight each.
The Nets have now lost three out of their last four games, with various players being rested in these games and the starters not playing nearly as many minutes. In this one, Shaun Livingston and Alan Anderson sat out with injuries, and Mirza Teletovic was not with the team after his wife gave birth to a baby. (wonder what Boomer Esiason has to say about that after his infamous comments a couple weeks ago about Met Daniel Murphy taking paternity leave with the birth of his child.)
On if there is concern about losing momentum with resting players, Pierce said, "Well we want guys to be healthy. I think that's the main part going into the playoffs. One of our biggest strengths is our depth, so it's important that the guys who are out get healthy for us to try to make this run. That's our strength, our strength is in our numbers."
The Nets finish the regular season tomorrow night in Cleveland and when asked who would make the trip, Kidd said, "We haven't made that decision yet, but we'll see."
The Nets, who fell to 44-37, hold a one-game lead over the Washington Wizards for the fifth seed. The Wizards play at the Celtics on Wednesday night in the season finale. If Washington wins and the Nets lose in Cleveland, Washington would get the fifth seed by virtue of winning the season series 3-0 and have a better conference record than the Nets, 32-19 to the Nets' 26-25 mark.