By Jason Schott - @JESchott19
The Nets used a strong second half to hold off Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love, and the Minnesota Timberwolves, 114-99, on Sunday night at Barclays Center.
As it stands, the Nets' magic number to clinch a playoff spot is one. If the New York Knicks had lost their game in Golden State (New York won, 89-84), the Nets would have been in the playoffs. On clinching a playoff spot, Nets Head Coach Jason Kidd said, "Well, we control our own destiny, so no matter what the Knicks do, we could care less. It's just about us and for us to finish out the rest of the games and see where we end up after 82 games; if it's home court or if we have to start on the road."
This was the Nets' 13th straight win at Barclays Center, with the last loss coming way back on January 31st against Oklahoma City. The 13 straight home wins ties a franchise record that set twice when Head Coach Jason Kidd played for the team in New Jersey, from February 17-April 5, 2002 and, in the following season, from November 18-December 30, 2002.
Kidd said of the Nets' success at home, "It's basketball, you're going to have your ups and downs. Early on, we didn't play well and right now we are. Guys are professional and getting their work in at practice and their pre-game routines must be working. Just paying attention to detail, getting their work in, and making sure they're getting rest this time of the year."
They improve to 39-33, and, since this is the last game in March, it is worth noting that they are an impressive 29-12 in the past three months. Deron Williams said of the turnaround, "The first part of the season was rough on us - injuries and everything that we went through. It feels good. It feels good to be able to turn it around. We never really gave up hope when everything was going wrong. We were getting a lot of flak from guys. We just stuck together. We knew we had a chance to turn it around. It was only a matter of time."
The Nets got off to a good start in a brisk first quarter, and took a 30-27 lead on the strength of Paul Pierce's 16 points. This is the second straight game that Pierce had a big first quarter. Head Coach Jason Kidd said of Pierce's fast starts, "He understands what these games mean and getting off to a good start and he's done that for us. Hopefully, he can keep that up, but the big thing is that we're asking Paul to guard someone that outweighs him, and Mirza (Teletovic) and Paul did a great job on (Kevin) Love tonight." Pierce finished with 22 points on 8-for-11 from the field and 5-for-8 on three-pointers, and 5 rebounds.
The Nets held a 59-54 lead at halftime, and whatever Minnesota Head Coach Rick Adelman said to his team at halftime worked, as Minnesota started the third quarter on a 15-4 run. The Nets responded with a 9-3 run and tied the game at 72 on a Joe Johnson bank shot with at the 4:25 mark, and he followed that with three jumpers, the last one giving Brooklyn an 81-75 lead with 2:03 left.
The Nets led 85-82 heading into the fourth, and that was when they took the game over. Alan Anderson hit back-to-back threes to give the Nets a 98-88 lead with 6:51 left, and a Paul Pierce three gave them a 103-90 lead with 5:27 left. The Nets got a nice contribution in the fourth quarter from Jorge Gutierrez, who came in for Marcus Thornton, who left with tightness in his lower back. Gutierrez played 8:31 of the fourth, and had 2 points and 3 assists.
The Nets had six players in double figures, starting with Pierce's 22 points. Joe Johnson is starting to shoot really well, and he had 19 points on 8-for-13 from the field. Andray Blatche had 14 points on 7-for-11 from the field, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists. Mason Plumlee, Shaun Livingston, and Alan Anderson all had 13 points each. Deron Williams had just 6 points (1-9 FG) and 5 assists.
Pierce said of the Nets' play down the stretch, "I think we limited our turnovers. A lot of the game, we knew we could score for the most part, but we just said if we did turn the ball over, they got out on the break and got easy opportunities. We clamped down on defense and rebounding the ball, then we'll break away from this game. Unfortunately, it took to the fourth quarter for us to do that, when we played our best defense, holding them to finally under 20 points, but sometimes that's the way the game goes."