It’s a must win. No excuses.
Yes, the Nets will be banged up. Paul Pierce and Andrei Kirilenko are both day-to-day after suffering minor injuries on Sunday night, and Kevin Garnett has yet to play in the month of March. And yes, it will be the latter half of a back-to-back, with the Nets set to play their third game in four days. But in Brooklyn’s last regular season meeting with the Raptors — their final chance to pick up a game directly against the Atlantic-leading squad — they’ll have to run their home winning streak to eight. That’s it they’re going to make a serious push for the division title and the number three seed.
It’s the start of an intriguing week for Brooklyn, one that begins with this pivotal match up at home, then sees them swing out to Miami and Washington. The latter of those road games is big, too. Entering Monday night, Washington is only a game and a half ahead of the Nets for fifth in the East. And going to Miami is never an easy task, but believe it or not (thanks to two home court wins), the Nets will be going for the season sweep against the champs. So in this stretch of statement games with postseason implications, it’s paramount that it starts with a win.
Last time out against Tornoto, the Nets said it was personal, but they faltered. A miscue in the closing seconds cost them, and their defense, which has been lights out in the 2014 calendar year, allowed 104 points.
“We dropped two to them,” Deron Williams, the culprit of the giveaway that cost them back on January 27, said, looking ahead of Monday night’s tilt. “We need it. We’re chasing them in the standings. They’re at the top of our division right now.”
If the Nets hope to leapfrog the Raptors, it needs to start with a W tonight.
Sunday night, the Nets defeated the Kings for their seventh straight home win.
The injury bug bit Brooklyn badly, leading to some on-the-fly moves from coach Jason Kidd and his players.
Recently-acquired Marcus Thornton stepped up and scored 27 points off the bench against his former team, the most points he’s scored in a Nets uniform.
“He’s one of those guys who’s like instant hot,” Deron Williams said after the game. “He comes in, hits one and then it’s like ‘NBA Jam.’ He’s on fire.”
Jon Presser, Contributor
Thornton puts the “shooting” in shooting guard. His teammates have joked about the fact that Thornton hasn’t learned much of the Nets’ playbook yet, and Kidd joked that they run plays just for him called “shoot it!”
The Nets needed to improvise after Paul Pierce and Andrei Kirilenko left the game with injuries, as Kidd was forced to give season-high minutes to Jason Collins, and even use Andray Blatche at the power forward spot, among other things.
Brooklyn saw a 16-point lead slip away, as Sacramento rallied in the second and third quarters to tie the game midway through the third. But Collins hit the go-ahead bucket a few minutes later, and Thornton got red-hot and burned his former team.
Thornton scored 15 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter, as the Nets turned a tight one into a laughter. Now, with a big divisional game tonight against first-place Toronto, they’d love for Thornton to stay hot and keep giving them quality minutes.
After Sunday night’s win over Sacramento, the Nets are 31-30. Toronto was also victorious, so the Nets still remain four games back in the Atlantic.
In the East, Brooklyn picked up a half game on the idle Wizards for the five seed. They’re a game and a half out of the five, and three games behind Chicago for fourth, who defeated the Heat in overtime on Sunday:
The Nets will take on the Raptors Monday in a huge match up with playoff implications. Washington will be in Miami.
The Nets (31-30) defeated the Kings (22-41) Sunday by a score of 104-89.
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Paul Pierce only played 1:13, as he re-aggravated that troublesome right shoulder stinger injury and his night ended early. He made his only shot attempt.
Andrei Kirilenko, who entered the game when Pierce left injured, suffered a game-ending ankle injury himself in the third quarter after 18 minutes of action.
Former King Marcus Thornton had a great game against his former team, with a game-high 27 points on 11-of-15 shooting, including 5-of-8 from behind the arc.
The Nets had 14 steals, making it the sixth game in a row that they had at least 12 steals. They are the first NBA team to do that since March 1999.
25-year-old point guard Jorge Gutierrez made his NBA debut, playing the final five minutes of the game for Brooklyn. He scored 1 point in his debut.
Jon Presser, Contributor
The Nets started fast, jumping out to a 17-4 run to start the game. Pierce made the opening bucket of the game, but it ended up being the only shot of the night for him, as he headed to the locker room early and did not return.
Brooklyn led by as many as 16 in the first half, but Sacramento didn’t hang their heads, rallying to make it a nine-point game by halftime. The Nets shot 52.5% from the field in the first half and forced 13 turnovers, but the Kings kept themselves in the game thanks in large part to a 15-point, 10-rebound first half from DeMarcus Cousins.
Cousins was dominant, finishing with 28 points and 20 rebounds, and he and Rudy Gay combined to score 48 of Sacramento’s 89 points. Cousins and Gay helped Sacramento rally to erase that 16-point deficit and tie the game in the third quarter.
Cousins and Gay had 41 of the Kings’ 57 total points before Gay rolled his ankle shortly after they’d tied the game, and it seemed to suck the life out of this young Kings squad. Cousins got in foul trouble as well, and the Nets pulled away after that.
After Kirilenko’s injury, Jason Collins stepped up and did an admirable job defending Cousins. His contributions rarely show up in the stat sheet, but the Nets needed him to play a season-high 20 minutes, and he did a great job in expanded playing time.
The Nets will be back in action tomorrow night, when they host the division-leading Toronto Raptors at the Barclays Center. Game time is scheduled for 7:30 pm.
The Good: In 31 games in 2013, the Nets were outscored 828-727 (-101 points) in third quarters (-3.3 ppg) and outscored their opponent just 11 times in the third. In 28 games in 2014, the Nets have outscored their opponents 725-630 (+95 points) in third quarters (+3.3 ppg) and outscored their opponent 18 times in the third…The Nets are currently enjoying a four game home winning streak against the Kings…Friday night in Boston, Deron Williams scored his 11,000th point of his career.
The Bad: The Nets lost the first meeting between these two teams, a 21 point defeat back on November 13. In that match up, the Kings had four players score 15+ points, and Brooklyn shot just 37.8% from the field…The Kings also recorded season-highs in points (107), field goals made (41), field goals attempted (94), total rebounds (50), defensive rebounds (38), assists (26), and turned the ball over just a season-low seven times in that game…Brooklyn is coming off a game in which they shot 4-for-30 from deep, including 0-for-17 in the first half.
Jon Presser, Contributor
Tonight, the Nets return home to host the Sacramento Kings at the Barclays Center. Home is where the heart is, and for Brooklyn, it’s where the wins have been as well. The Nets have won six straight at the Barclays Center, and their 12-2 home record since January 1 is among the league’s best in that span.
A win would tie the Nets’ season-high of seven consecutive home wins, and they’re looking to earn a season-split with the Kings, after Brooklyn lost in Sacramento 107-86 back on November 13. However, the Nets are a different team today than they were in that previous matchup, and a recent trade with these Kings is a factor in that.
In that blowout loss in Sacramento early in the season, Marcus Thornton scored a game-high 24 points off the bench for the Kings. The young shooting guard has had a roller-coaster season of highs and lows, leading to a trade to the Nets a few weeks ago. In his short time in Brooklyn, the Nets have seen him catch fire and go ice cold.
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The Nets’ 30-30 mark is currently good for second in the Atlantic division, four games back of the Raptors:
In the chase for playoff positioning, Brooklyn is in sixth in the Eastern Conference, two games behind the Wizards for fifth and three games off the Bulls’ pace for fourth:
The Wizards knocked off the Bucks Saturday night and will return to action Monday against the Heat in Miami.
Meanwhile, Sunday’s action includes the Nets hosting the Kings at 6:00 PM . The Raptors are in Minnesota for a 7:00 PM start, and the Bulls will play in Miami for a 1:00 PM matinee.
“Yeah, why not? Maybe play for them, maybe work for them [...] They’re a young team. They’ve got a mix of some veterans, some young guys who are developing. They’re only going to get better,” Pierce said. “Rondo is ready to lead, he’s leading them right now, moving into the next generation of Celtics. I think their future is going to be very bright.” (Holmes, Boston Globe)
– Paul Pierce, when asked if he’d ever return to the Celtics
Pierce, who will make $15.3 million this year, is in the final year of his contract. He will be a free agent this summer.
Paul Pierce suffered a stinger during Friday’s game in Boston, but returned to the game.
Nets trainer Tim Walsh worked on his shoulder during the third, and Pierce returned for the fourth. Pierce was briefly forced out of Wednesday’s game due to a similar injury.
“It’s been a problem for me throughout the last few years,” said Pierce (ESPN). “It’s weak right now, so whenever I get hit in that shoulder … just with the constant years of banging, especially now that I’m playing the four. So it’s a quick stinger.”
Last night, the Nets’ four-game winning streak came to an end when they dropped a tough one on the road to the division rival Boston Celtics.
For Brooklyn, it was one of their worst shooting nights as a team, as they couldn’t get anything going from behind the three-point line, or anywhere else for that matter.
The Nets shot just 4-of-30 from three-point territory on Friday, including 0-of-17 in the first half. Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, and Paul Pierce combined to shoot 3-of-19 from deep, and they played about as well as anyone on the floor for Brooklyn.
Jon Presser, Contributor
The Nets like to space the floor and let it fly from behind the arc, something they’ve done quite frequently, especially after they lost Brook Lopez for the season. They’ve gone 6-3 in their last nine games, and in all three of those losses, they’ve shot under 20% from three-point territory each time.
In their February 22 loss to Golden State, they shot 9.5% (2-of-21) from three-point land. They shot 18.2% (4-of-22) from deep in their February 26 loss the Portland. Whether if it’s just poor execution when they’re taking what the defense gives them, or just settling a little often, when the Nets get cold from long-distance, it’s not pretty.
The Nets won the points in the paint battle, 38-34, but they got outrebounded 51-28. They tried to make up for it with their three-ball game, a formula that’s worked for them a lot this season. But all they hit was rim. It was just one of those nights.