By Jason Schott - @JESchott19
Paul Pierce hit the 25,000 point plateau on Friday night in the Nets' 93-88 loss to the Atlanta Hawks at Barclays Center. Pierce becomes the fourth active player, alongside teammate Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, and Dirk Nowitzki, and the 18th player in NBA history to reach that achievement.
Pierce is now just 13 points away from scoring 1,000 points for the 15th straight season. He would become the only active player and just the sixth player in NBA history to score 1,000 points in 15 or more consecutive seasons. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (19 straight), Karl Malone (18 straight), John Havlicek (16 straight), and Elvin Hayes and Robert Parish, who each did it for 15 straight seasons, are the others to accomplish it.
On reaching 25,000 points alongside Garnett, who was in just his third game since February 27th, "It's better to be in the championship club, obviously. Statistical things, they come and go. There's going to be players in the future that pass me, but you know, when you win - that lasts forever. It's great being part of history - just a testament to my hard work and consistency over the years and good health."
Kevin Garnett said of Pierce, "I told him, 'Welcome to the neighborhood, man.' Congratulations. Truth has been a big part of this league, so it's kind of dope to see one of your great friends - best friends - reach some accomplishments together. We've done some things together, but tonight was all about him. I'm proud of him - happy for him."
Nets Head Coach Jason Kidd said of Pierce surpassing 25,000 points, "Well he's been big for us all year; being able to go from the three to the four. We're asking him to guard bigger guys and offensively it's a big honor. I don't know if I've ever gotten that far but 25,000 is a lot of points. I'm happy for him. I'm happy for the guys who played tonight because they fought. Again, we had an opportunity but we came up short."
HAWKS EDGE NETS, INCH CLOSER TO EIGHTH SEED
The Atlanta Hawks edged the Nets 93-88 on Friday night at Barclays Center, and their magic number to clinch the eighth seed is down to one game. The loss snaps the Nets' record home winning streak of 15 in a row. Paul Pierce made some history as he joined the 25,000 point club in the win.
The Nets are locked into the fifth seed in the playoffs, so are planning for it by getting the key players some rest. Tonight, Head Coach Jason Kidd rested Deron Williams, Shaun Livingston, Andray Blatche, and Alan Anderson.
The Nets' starting lineup was a unique one, with Jorge Gutierrez starting at point guard, Andrei Kirilenko at forward, alongside Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson, and Kevin Garnett, who was making his first appearance at Barclays Center since February 12th.
Gutierrez took advantage of the opportunity, as he scored 11 points on 405 shooting and had 4 assists. Kidd said of the confidence this can give Gutierrez heading into the playoffs, "I'm very confident in all the guys. If it's Jorge who has to step in and play some minutes at some point in the playoffs, I'm confident that he can do the job and I think his teammates are too."
The Nets dominated early, holding a 23-16 lead at the on the Hawks, who looked disinterested at times, at the end of the first quarter. The Hawks turned it around in the second, led by Jeff Teague, who had 14 points, and outscored the Nets 39-24 in the quarter to lead 55-47 at halftime.
The Hawks maintained an eight-point lead for most of the third quarter, but the Nets battled back, and a Joe Johnson bank shot made it 70-68 Hawks with 2:08 left in the third. A Mirza Teletovic three made it 74-73 Atlanta heading to the fourth.
The Nets took the lead on a Marcus Thornton jumper 1:40 into the fourth. With Atlanta leading 81-79 with 6:29 left, Kevin Garnett and Atlanta's Elton Brand had a tough battle for a rebound, which Garnett won, and they went at it heading back up the court, drawing technicals. It was good to see Garnett out there with that intensity, battling with a fellow veteran.
Paul Pierce made the pass of the night when he had three Hawks on him and went behind-the-back to find Joe Johnson in the corner for a three to make it 87-84 Atlanta with 4:04 left. A Mason Plumlee reverse lay-up that turned into a three-point play with the foul, gave the Nets an 88-87 lead with 2:22 left. Paul Millsap returned the favor with a reverse lay-up of his own after a drive along the baseline to make it 89-88 Hawks.
The Plumlee three-point play wound up being the last points the Nets would score, as Pierce missed two key free throws with 1:32 left and a three to tie it with 56.9 seconds left. Atlanta sealed the win on a Jeff Teague floating jumper with 19.3 seconds left.
Nets Head Coach Jason Kidd was asked what stood out about the game, and he said, "Well the guys fought. We had an opportunity but we missed some shots down the stretch. We guarded the three very well but again, we had opportunities at the free throw line and then we had some good looks at the end."
The Nets were led by Mason Plumlee, who had 17 points on perfect 6-for-6 shooting, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists off the bench. Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, and Marcus Thornton all had tough shooting nights. Johnson had 9 points on 4-for-15 from the field and 1-for-5 from behind the arc. Pierce had 13 points on 5-for-14 overall and 1-for-7 behind the arc. Thornton had 14 points on 6-for-17 from the field and 2-for-7 from behind the arc.
Atlanta was led by Paul Millsap, who had 27 points (10-19 FG) and 10 rebounds; Jeff Teague with 22 points, 3 assists, and 3 rebounds; and DeMarre Carroll, who had 12 points and 11 rebounds.