The Brooklyn Nets CENTER

Until the last few minutes, the Nets maximized their best asset -- forcing turnovers -- and were dominated by their biggest weakness -- rebounding. They may have set a record for most shots rimmed out in a game, which will happen sometimes. Credit to DeMar DeRozan for showing up big after a rough Game 1. Now it's time to go back to Brooklyn.

Deron Williams POINT GUARD

Came out as aggressive as he did Saturday afternoon, but his shots didn't fall in the first half. One notable layup twirling around Jonas Valanciunas to put in a scoop, but a quiet night otherwise on a bigger stage, including a rough turnover in crunch time.

Shaun Livingston POINT GUARD

Didn't show any fear attacking the paint in his first playoff series since 2006 and his first as a starter, and unlike the rest of the team didn't have any issues hitting free throws.

Joe Johnson SHOOTING GUARD

The Raptors still don't have an answer for him on the wing -- it's either make or miss once he gets into the paint. Johnson carried the Nets through the third quarter with 12 big points in a variety of ways, but airballed a 3 in the fourth quarter and the Nets didn't go to him otherwise.

Paul Pierce POWER FORWARD

2 quick fouls in the first quarter kept him glued to the bench, but played disruptive defense throughout. Didn't hit any shots until crunch time: a step-back and-one jumper that tied the game at 83, and then an and-one layup to cut a 92-87 lead to 92-90 with under a minute left. Pierce had one more chance to give the Nets the lead, but rimmed out two wide-open three-point attempts down the stretch.

Kevin Garnett CENTER

Strong start to this one on both ends, neutralizing Raptors pick-and-rolls with Valanciunas and hitting two nice mid-range jumpers in his first four-minute stint. Rolled well to the rim to get some easy buckets and played solid defense in his limited time. Not an accident that he had the team's best plus-minus.

Andrei Kirilenko SMALL FORWARD

After sitting out the entirety of Game 1, drawing the ire of his wife, Kirilenko got some early playing time in Game 2 and earned his keep with his usual, sneaky style of play. Played some crunch time minutes in lieu of Shain Livingston, hitting the deck on one play to save a defensive rebound. If not that, this is his play of the night: stealing an offensive rebound right out of Terrence Ross's hands and grabbing another offensive rebound on the very next shot.

Mirza Teletovic POWER FORWARD

Rough Game 1 didn't translate over: Teletovic missed his first three shots but then buried his next four, including three three-pointers, briefly leading the Nets in scoring to close the first half. Still can't defend.

Mason Plumlee CENTER

Doesn't look fazed by playoff minutes but Brooklyn's defense fell off a cliff with him in the game.


 


The Brooklyn Nets CENTER

The Dinosaurs beat the clock.

Deron Williams POINT GUARD

Came out in the first quarter like a different Deron Williams: aggressive, looking for his own (good) shot, trying to draw contact and hitting threes. The Nets don't need Williams to dominate games in the playoffs, but he certainly dominated the first half.

Williams stepped back in the second half, letting Pierce and Johnson take over, and hit two crucial free throws to ice the game.

Shaun Livingston POINT GUARD

Love how he defended DeMar DeRozan in the first quarter, but followed that up with some silly bad fouls in the second quarter. He's the "glue" in their starting lineup -- he can defend DeRozan (or Lowry, or whichever top Raptors wing scorer is on the floor), and if he's making bad plays, they're going to struggle.

His short jumper is the best, though.

Joe Johnson SHOOTING GUARD

Seemed to get his own shot in the paint at will, bodying DeRozan in the paint and hitting floaters. Grabbed more rebounds than you'd think.

Paul Pierce POWER FORWARD

Opened the game with a contested three-pointer that I thought was a good sign for his game. Spent the next three quarters a complete non-factor, only hitting one field goal and getting blocked by bigger players on his drives.

Then Pierce hit a huge three-pointer to put the Nets up six with under three minutes left. Then later took an extra step or two en route to a left-handed layup. It's okay, because 3 steps by a U.S. player is only 2.5 once you translate them to Canadian currency. Then came the mid-range jumper with 2.7 off the SHOT CLOCK THAT DIDN'T EXIST. Then came ANOTHER dagger.

"That's why I'm here!" Pierce yelled to the bench after his fourth dagger put the Nets up 88-81 with 51.5 seconds left.

Yes it is, Paul. Thanks for coming.

Kevin Garnett CENTER

He's still bringing the heat defensively, but if his matchup with Jonas Valanciunas is any indication, he's in for a tough series. Valanciunas bullied him inside throughout their matchup.

Andray Blatche POWER FORWARD

Andray Blatche is the worst pick-and-roll defender I've ever seen.

The enigmatic Andray Blatche was as up-and-down as ever, throwing a turnover away on his first possession, playing the inside well on offense and controlling the offensive glass in a way few other Nets can, and letting Raptors guards shimmy into the lane on pick-and-rolls with the resistance of a cotton ball.

The Nets can't have Blatche playing like this off the bench if they want to win this series.

Andrei Kirilenko SMALL FORWARD

This isn't a grade, but a reflection on possibly the biggest question mark of the day: with the rest of their bench struggling, where was he?

Alan Anderson SHOOTING GUARD

Had a couple of nice moments in the second quarter -- a Eurostep!? -- but little else.

Mirza Teletovic POWER FORWARD

In our playoff preview I said Teletovic was an X-Factor for this team -- if he's playing with the starters, he's going to get open three-pointers and he's got to knock them down.

He didn't.

Marcus Thornton SHOOTING GUARD

They need him to hit shots for him to be valuable. He was not valuable. Not the prettiest playoff debut.

Mason Plumlee CENTER

No dunks and five fouls in 11 minutes. Not his best debut, either.


 


The Brooklyn Nets CENTER

The Nets made it clear they didn't care about this game, like many of the other games the last two weeks of this season, but it's never nice to get blown out with the playoffs right at your heels. If results hold, the Nets will face the Raptors on Saturday on ESPN.

Andray Blatche POWER FORWARD

He never stops Blatching. Had some signature pump fakes, long two-point jumpers, one memorable eurostep, and a nice up-and-under move.

Andrei Kirilenko SMALL FORWARD

He didn't make any insane voodoo pass like he did on Tuesday, but he did lots of Kirilenko things. And one not-Kirilenko thing. HE MADE A PAIR OF FREE THROWS.

Marcus Thornton SHOOTING GUARD

Early on, it looked like Marcus Thornton might take about 100 shots in this game, and it's funny, because he gameplans for a minimum of 200 attempts on any given night.

Jason Collins CENTER

He had the green light, which I don't think anyone has ever said about Jason Collins. It looks like his role is pretty much nonexistent for the playoffs, so it was good to get one last long look at him this season.

Mason Plumlee CENTER

He had his usual assortment of athletic plays at the rim. He also showed off a couple hook shots and post moves that were big parts of his repertoire when he was an offensive focal point at Duke.

Jorge Gutierrez POINT GUARD

Gutierrez looked okay, neither good nor bad. He looked to shoot more, but when Andray Blatche is more of a playmaker than your point guard, there probably is something a bit wrong.

Marquis Teague POINT GUARD

I feel bad for Marquis Teague, because the appropriate people don't seem to realize that he belongs in the D-League for the foreseeable future. I will say that he always gives his full effort, but it's clearly not enough.


 


The Brooklyn Nets CENTER

With a coma's intensity, the Brooklyn Nets attacked the New York Knicks head-on in the battle of who could care less and won just emphatically in that department. They shot shots that didn't matter. They barely attacked the basket. They let Andray Blatche do enough silly things to commit six turnovers. They allowed a bunch of dunks and three-pointers by their cross-town rival, whose season ends tomorrow. They were just awful for the better part of 48 minutes, changing nothing.

The Nets will still either be the fifth or sixth seed, and they'll still either play the Bulls or Raptors. We'll know exactly which tomorrow. But this game was a crash-course in indifference.

Deron Williams POINT GUARD

"Hey, who threw this car in reverse? And why's it on cruise control?"

Joe Johnson SHOOTING GUARD

Fine, I guess. That's all I got.

Paul Pierce POWER FORWARD

Want to get this out of the way now: the Iman Shumpert crossover that knocked Pierce over looked way worse in real time than it did on the replay. Pierce stepped on Shumpert's foot, which caused him to lose his balance.

Other than that, thought he didn't sleepwalk as much as the rest of the team, though he definitely dozed through a few possessions.

Andray Blatche POWER FORWARD

If tonight was his chance to solidify playoff minutes, Andray Blatche is not going to play playoff minutes.

Andrei Kirilenko SMALL FORWARD

Played in the starting lineup for the third straight game with Shaun Livingston out, and he is so so sneaky. He snuck his way in front of two plays in the first quarter, hitting the floor for one steal and picking off a baseline pass for another. He snuck this beautiful no-look pass to Mason Plumlee in the first half. He moves like one of those inflatable tube men outside of a car dealership.

Marcus Thornton SHOOTING GUARD

Really wanted him to shoot, like, 50 times in this game. But I'll take him firing with reckless abandon either way. But his on-ball defense is not pretty.

Mason Plumlee CENTER

There's something endearing about the fact that Mason Plumlee just keeps dunking and dunking and dunking, no matter how bad or irrelevant a game gets. He's no KG on the defensive end, but he's made strides.


 


The Brooklyn Nets CENTER

Other than the bench messing with a decent lead in the fourth quarter, requiring Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams, and Joe Johnson to return to the lineup, the Nets mostly cruised their way to this victory behind their three-point shooting and -- get this -- second-chance points, turning 14 offensive rebounds into 14 second-chance points.

Behind some hot shooting from Williams, Johnson, and Mirza Teletovic, and an engaging effort from Mason Plumlee, the Nets pulled this one off.

Not that there was much doubt, but the win also basically guarantees them the fifth seed, where they'll play either Chicago or Toronto.

Deron Williams POINT GUARD

Requisite filthy crossover on a couple of occasions, one sick pass to Joe Johnson for a corner three-pointer, four steals to extend his streak to 29 games, and a barrage of three-pointers of his own before resting the fourth quarter.

I see a lot of comments about when Williams "used to be good" on Twitter. He still is. He's not as good as he once was, but he's still an excellent playmaker who can shoot and create off the dribble. His mistakes get magnified because of his status, but he's still very good.

Joe Johnson SHOOTING GUARD

He takes the worst shots that I love to watch.

Paul Pierce POWER FORWARD

Hope his shoulder's okay.

Kevin Garnett CENTER

Played another short stint well; early turnovers aside, Garnett brought his usual intensity. Scary moment in the first half when he fell on his back after a misguided block attempt, but he returned without incident. Also tried yelling in a shot, because he is Kevin Garnett.

Brook Lopez CENTER

Came onto the court shortly before tipoff to thank the fans for their support this season. Miss U, Brook.

Andray Blatche POWER FORWARD

Returned to the rotation in the first half after missing two games with an illness and a third with a DNP-CD (his first in his Nets history) and immediately tried running point guard. Never change, you beautifully absurd creature of the Nets.

Mirza Teletovic POWER FORWARD

Mason Plumlee CENTER

Look, I know he's not going to win Rookie of the Year. (Please don't stop reading there.) But no other rookie is having as positive an impact on a good team this season as Mason Plumlee. Every other rookie getting major minutes has it because of circumstance; the team's bad and they want to showcase their rookie. Plumlee's the opposite: the team wanted to stash him in the D-League where he could get minutes, and he played his way into the rotation and cemented a spot.

Plumlee's legitimately good. He's 24, and may not get much better than he is today, but he knows what he can do and he's executing.


 


The Brooklyn Nets CENTER

It's hard to judge the Nets on this game: Deron Williams, Shaun Livingston, and Alan Anderson all sat, Andray Blatche was active but didn't play, the Nets had a weird incentive to lose if they care about the borough battle, and they relied mostly on Marcus Thornton and Mirza Teletovic to carry them through the fourth quarter, which is the basketball equivalent of throwing darts blindfolded at a board with numbers 3 and 0 on it.

If they won, they'd win, which is good. If they lost, they'd remain the fifth seed and put a damper in New York's playoff chances, which is good. They played listless early (outside of Mason Plumlee), got Paul Pierce an historic milestone, allowed Jorge Gutierrez to shine in a featured role, and helped put another nail in New York's coffin. What's wrong with that?

Joe Johnson SHOOTING GUARD

Struggled throughout but few rival his short floater off the backboard.

Paul Pierce POWER FORWARD

Paul Pierce missed a shot and two free throws near the end of this game because if the Hawks win it put a damper in the Knicks playoff chances. That's absolutely what happened and you can't convince me of anything otherwise. Paul Pierce hates the Knicks so much he would mess with the sanctity of an NBA game in which he scored his 25,000th career point. I love this game so much.

Sure, they didn't care about this game, but if you score your 25,000th career point, you should get an historical A+. Congrats on an awesome career, Paul Pierce.

Kevin Garnett CENTER

Ended his night with a double-technical on him and Elton Brand, which might be the oldest technical foul in NBA history. Looks like the Kevin Garnett the Nets want in the playoffs for 25 minutes. Can he do it?

Andrei Kirilenko SMALL FORWARD

Enough antics to embarrass Pero Antic. Love his court vision still, and connected with Mirza Teletovic on one pretty alley-oop.

Mirza Teletovic POWER FORWARD

Hit the glass hard for a stretch in the fourth quarter and hit two threes to keep his streak of 3+ three-pointers against the Hawks alive.

Mason Plumlee CENTER

Played with a ton of energy in a game and in moments where it seemed the Nets didn't have any at all.

Jorge Gutierrez POINT GUARD

If the Nets wanted to lose tonight to help eliminate the Knicks from playoff contention, no one told Jorge Gutierrez, who opened the game with a steal and transition layup, hit another floater in the first quarter, managed the game well, drew what should have been ruled a charge on Jeff Teague with under two minutes left, and looked like he belonged on an NBA floor. What more can you ask for?

Marquis Teague POINT GUARD

Hit a layup and only got embarrassed by his older brother on one crossover, which is fine, I guess.


 


The Brooklyn Nets CENTER

The Nets put up a listless first half defensively, letting E'Twaun Moore go off in the second quarter and taking bad or easy shots early in the shot clock.

The Nets clawed back in in the third quarter, thanks to some hot shooting from Mirza Teletovic and game management from Joe Johnson, and had a chance to put it away in the fourth behind Joe Johnson's heroics, but it wasn't enough as Kyle O'Quinn blocked a Joe Johnson three-pointer and the Magic hit their free throws down the stretch.

Given the effort in the first half, they didn't really deserve to win this game, but considering how close they made it, this one still stings.

Deron Williams POINT GUARD

Kept his steal streak going and played like he needs rest.

Joe Johnson SHOOTING GUARD

I love that even on the second night of a back-to-back when everyone on the Nets is playing like they've been awake celebrating since they beat the Heat Tuesday night, Joe Johnson is still his usual, boring, solid scoring self with an incredible knack for scoring in crunch time.

Only had one real brain fart: at the end of the third quarter with the ball and the shot clock off, Johnson fired a shot with over eight seconds left, giving the Magic a chance to race downcourt and fire up a shot. E-Twaun Moore buried the three, putting the Magic up 5 before the fourth quarter.

But Johnson took the reins of the offense down the stretch, and delivered on three occasions: a tough floater to bring the Nets within two and two shots in the paint to cut the lead to one in crunch time, but was blocked by Kyle O'Quinn on a three-point attempt that would have tied the game.

Kevin Garnett CENTER

Good stints -- got his first bucket by following a Deron Williams missed layup, and played his role as the offensive fulcrum out of the high post by hitting cutters and spread-out shooters en route to a season-high six assists. Looked spry, though not 100%.

Alan Anderson SHOOTING GUARD

He drove baseline every time and the Magic still couldn't stop him.

Mirza Teletovic POWER FORWARD

Despite shooting six three-pointers in the game's first six minutes (and a seventh that he shot just after accidentally stepping out of bounds), he didn't attempt one for the rest of the half and fell short of J.R. Smith's new NBA record set on Sunday of 22 attempts in a game. His third quarter shooting (four three-pointers) kept them within striking distance, and he drew a foul on Maurice Harkless with seconds left to keep the Nets alive. But he missed a crucial free throw, which helped put the nail in the coffin.

Marcus Thornton SHOOTING GUARD

E'Twaun Moore's 14-point explosion in the second half, the one that put the Magic up that gave them a double-digit halftime lead, was largely on Thornton's head, and Mo Harkless beat him backdoor on a key crunch-time play. He's a nice thief, but his on-ball defense tonight wasn't up to snuff.

Mason Plumlee CENTER

Lots of rim-rattling dunks, including a throw-in throw-down, and even showed off some unprecedented dribble-drive moves, but fouled out in the fourth quarter in what's a recurring theme for his high playing time. With Jason Collins not getting playing time and Garnett at the end of his minutes limit, the Nets played the end of the game without a true center, leaving Kyle O'Quinn to get all the rebounds he wanted.

One day he'll hit a shot from outside of the paint. It just may not be this season.


 


The Brooklyn Nets CENTER

They did it again. For the first time in the history of the Big 3 era, the Miami Heat were swept in a four-game regular season series.

And somehow, it didn't feel like it would happen. The Nets just seemed a little... off. Passes were caught, but after flying awry. Shots were contested, but a split-second late. The Nets hit just enough bad shots to stay alive. Rebounds bounced off hands. This wasn't an emphatic victory by a strong team, but an incredible run by unlikely heroes. Shaun Livingston's heroics in the last game led to Mason Plumlee's here.

The Nets will likely be the fifth seed and the Heat the first seed. Let's just say a second-round matchup between these two teams is in the cards... And let's hope for it.

Deron Williams POINT GUARD

Committed a costly, embarrassing turnover to end the first half and threw away another in the third quarter. Didn't attack the basket well and his passes weren't crisp. Missed two crucial free throws near the end. Other than one sweet pass to Mason Plumlee, a forgettable one tonight.

Shaun Livingston POINT GUARD

Nice slam in the first quarter but didn't create as much out of the post as you'd imagine outside of hone hook shot in the third and looked a bit nervous throughout.

Joe Johnson SHOOTING GUARD

He is so smooth. Goddamn, is he smooth. Hit shots easily in the first half in midrange and out of the post, and then hit a ridiculously tough floater over LeBron James to keep the lead alive.

Paul Pierce POWER FORWARD

After a quiet first half, Pierce came out firing to start the second. hitting two quick buckets and blocking a shot in the first two minutes, before getting hit with two dubious foul calls to give him four, send him to the bench, and enrage him enough to get a technical foul.

Andrei Kirilenko SMALL FORWARD

More spastic than special tonight: had a few moments of defensive ingenuity, but otherwise didn't look in sync.

Alan Anderson SHOOTING GUARD

His drives to the basket went nowhere until back-to-back layups in the fourth quarter. You always appreciate a wing player willing to sacrifice his body with impunity.

Mirza Teletovic POWER FORWARD

He loves playing the Heat, and you can tell.

Marcus Thornton SHOOTING GUARD

Sacramento did not warn me how instinctual he'd be defensively. He picked off a couple of easy steals in the first half and rewarded himself with shot attempts. Big threes down the stretch. How did the Nets get him for Evans and Terry again?

Mason Plumlee CENTER

1) DUNK ON BRON
2) PUT IN GAME-SAVING LAYUP
3) SWAT BRON
4) EARN A+
5) EARN ADORATION
6) ...
7) SELL ALL THE T-SHIRTS


 


The Brooklyn Nets CENTER

The Nets escaped on the skin of their free throws when they should've rested the whole fourth. Brooklyn spent entirely too much of the second half "holding off" Philadelphia, instead of "blowing out" Philadelphia.

The 76ers are an awful basketball team, and the Nets handed them their 60th loss of the season, but a 21-point lead dissipated over the course of third- and fourth-quarter minutes to as little as three points, and the Nets vaunted bench could only just keep the 76ers at bay.

A win means you can't fail, but the Nets almost failed themselves with their fourth-quarter performance.

Deron Williams POINT GUARD

When everyone is scoring, it's usually a testament to how Williams is facilitating: he had an excellent all-around game against the hapless 76ers, scoring inside and setting up teammates for easy buckets. By on-court and off-court player ratings, the Nets are worst with Williams off the floor, and best with Williams on it. That doesn't excuse his role in much of the team's fourth-quarter collapse, but he did hit a four-point play and two key free throws in crunch time to help seal the win.

Shaun Livingston POINT GUARD

Quiet, distributory, still unstoppable from inside nine feet. Some shoddy crunch-time play, including two missed free throws at a key moment, bring his grade down. But backboards need not apply for disruption.

One note: while it's true that Deron Williams plays far better with Livingston on the floor with him than Livingston on the bench, the same is true the other way: they're best when they can share the creative duties.

Joe Johnson SHOOTING GUARD

Quiet game from Johnson, but the Nets didn't play their starters much in the second half.

Paul Pierce POWER FORWARD

Loved the way he attacked and spread the ball around, but not an incredibly impactful game.

Kevin Garnett CENTER

Welcome back, KG. Had a solid first stint, hitting his first four shots, including a rim-rattling dunk near the end of the first half. Though the standard caveat applies -- they were playing the awful Philadelphia 76ers -- he didn't appear to have any rust despite missing the last 19 games. If the Nets can get that KG in the playoffs for 25 minutes a game, that'll make a huge difference.

Andray Blatche POWER FORWARD

Andray Blatche has spent 10,000 hours taking ballet with a matador.

Mirza Teletovic POWER FORWARD

You really, really don't like when a player shoots an airball in crunch time. He really, really makes up for it by burying a shot from the exact same spot without any hesitation on the next play.

Marcus Thornton SHOOTING GUARD

Still impressed by how well he fits in defensively after his reputation as a poor defender in Sacramento, and he did hit four free throws down the stretch to help seal the game. But a shooter's conscience isn't always a good thing.

Mason Plumlee CENTER

Dunks&
Dunks&
Dunks&
Dunks&
Dunks&
Dunks.

Had his issues defensively, one day he'll do something else offensively, and one day he'll figure out how to limit his fouls. But every one of his made field goals was the easiest way to put the ball in the basket. Hard to complain about that.


 


The Brooklyn Nets CENTER

The Pistons are bad, and the Nets took advantage of that with a good combination of three-pointers, post-ups, and drives to the basket. They defended well, staying home on the pick-and-roll and switching at the right moments, and other than some athletic dunks and a continuation of their year-long rebounding issues, the Nets closed this one out strong.

15 straight at home now.

Deron Williams POINT GUARD

Put up some solid minutes after a rough start that featured two badly missed layups (one an open layup, one a blocked shot tossed into Kyle Singler's arm), distributing the ball well and extending his league-best streak of games with at least one steal to 25.

Shaun Livingston POINT GUARD

This might be proximity bias, because I've watched every minute Livingston's played this season, but everything he can do is evident now. The Nets starters play far better when he's on the floor. He's one of the best post scorers for a guard in the league. He can get his eight-foot jumper off over almost anybody. His assist numbers underrate his passing ability. He bounces off the floor en route to the rim.

Please, no one else in the NBA notice.

Joe Johnson SHOOTING GUARD

Hit a few shots in rhythm in the first half and they didn't really need him after that.

Paul Pierce POWER FORWARD

Foul trouble aside, a nice lefty dunk, two-hand dunk, and semi-dagger three-pointer in the fourth.

Andray Blatche POWER FORWARD

I WANT THE NEWS, NOT THE WEATHER. MORE LIKE BACON FAT. TIME TO YELLOW SUBMARINE ALL OVER YOUR FACE? DOES THIS GAME GRADE MAKE NO SENSE? NEITHER DOES YOUNG SEYMOUR DEFENDING LIKE YI'S CHAIR, CROSSING OVER LIKE JAMAL CRAWFORD AND HITTING STEP-BACK JUMPERS ON HIS WAY TO THE PHILIPPINES PRACTICE FACILITY.

Blatche Cross New

DON'T TELL ME THINGS GOTTA MAKE SENSE IN BLATCHELAND.

Andrei Kirilenko SMALL FORWARD

Returned to the floor for the first time since spraining his left ankle on March 23rd, and made an immediate impact. He picked up two quick steals, the second he anticipated before the Pistons even knew they were going to make the pass. It was quietly incredible.

Mirza Teletovic POWER FORWARD

The Nets just kept running pick-and-pops with him on the floor and he just kept burying three-pointers. Teams tend to gameplan more in the playoffs, but they might also place too much attention on the stars, which would leave role players like Teletovic open. This game stands as a reminder: he's dangerous if he's open, and if he can make his shots in big moments, he could swing some playoff games.

Jason Collins CENTER

TWIN, SCORER. As many points as Greg Monroe and a decent job on Andre Drummond? I'll take that from the last player on the bench any day.

Mason Plumlee CENTER

Quick foul trouble for Plumlee kept him out of most of this game, but contributions from Blatche and Collins meant they didn't miss him much. But the way he's played brings up an interesting question: when Kevin Garnett returns, does he usurp Andray Blatche's spot in the rotation?


 


The Brooklyn Nets CENTER

Deron Williams POINT GUARD

Give him credit for hitting shots, but the Nets didn't run any semblance of their usual offense with him at the helm in the first half. Williams looked all sorts of tentative, frittering into the lane before backing right out, dribbling around and looking for plays that led nowhere on too many occasions.

Williams finished without an assist for the second time this season and the second time EVER since he became a full-time point guard after his rookie season.

Shaun Livingston POINT GUARD

Hit a couple of short jumpers but not nearly as disruptive as usual and got caught behind a few too many screens against a team that can beat you with three-pointers.

Joe Johnson SHOOTING GUARD

Had another stretch of scoring in many different ways that bridged the second and third quarter, but his most memorable play might be telegraphing a pass from out-f-bounds to Paul Pierce so badly that J.R. Smith stole it with ease.

Paul Pierce POWER FORWARD

For a guy who loves Madison Square Garden so much he sure let it shine.

Andray Blatche POWER FORWARD

Blatche gets an A+ for his performance of the first two acts of his final project for interpretive dance class "Blatchepedaling," a tragic tale of a man meant to initiate contact and defend against opponent attacks, but instead stuck in a world with invisible barriers between himself and humanity's touch.

Marcus Thornton SHOOTING GUARD

Shoots a lot, which is cool when you a) make shots, b) can do other things, or c) have other guys on your team doing other things. None of these things were true.

Mason Plumlee CENTER

To be fair, I think that alley-oop he put down in the third was the highest I've ever seen him jump. That was an incredible flush. So that was nice. It was also his only shot attempt.


 


The Brooklyn Nets CENTER

On an April Fool's Day, the Nets snapped one 14-game streak, continued another streak to 14 games, and clinched a playoff spot for the second straight year.

The Nets played what hopefully is their usual brand of basketball: move the ball, limit turnovers, exploit mismatches, find open shots, and don't worry who gets the numbers, as long as they come. The Nets struggled at times to defend James Harden -- who got an incredible number of foul calls -- and they allowed Omer Asik to pull down a career-high 23 rebounds, but they contested most of Houston's looks, found Joe Johnson open enough times to extend the lead in the third quarter, and spread the ball enough to keep that lead maintained in the fourth.

This was another solid victory against a plus-.500 team that's going to make waves in the West, even without Dwight Howard. Hard to complain about that one.

Deron Williams POINT GUARD

Played a very comfortable, dribble-crossover heavy offense, got free, found teammates, didn't get embarrassed by Jeremy Lin, and only turned it over once. It's not elite Deron Williams, but it's point guard Deron Williams, and that's all they needed tonight.

Shaun Livingston POINT GUARD

Feasted inside early with three quick buckets, including an alley-oop from Mason Plumlee, before foul trouble took him out of the first quarter. Played his poke-and-prod, pull-up-and-facilitate offense, and made few mistakes.

Joe Johnson SHOOTING GUARD

Quiet burn; dropped 17 points in the first half while nobody noticed. At one point he had 22 points, 2 assists, 2 rebounds, and 2 fouls. Fitting that he'd have a 22 2's night with Jay-Z in the house.

What was so phenomenal about his shooting performance was that he didn't play some over-the-top out-of-the-ordinary shooting performance, where Johnson just hit step-back 34-footers with Omer Asik in his face. The Nets tilted Houston's offense from side to side, and Johnson just happened to get open enough times to get a clear look at the basket.

Sniper Joe picked up 30 points before the start of the fourth quarter not by taking over Brooklyn's offense, but by playing within it. That's the type of Johnson Brooklyn needs in the playoffs.

Paul Pierce POWER FORWARD

Very quiet, but nice and rested for tomorrow's game against the Knicks. I hear he likes playing them.

Andray Blatche POWER FORWARD

Solid game from Young Seymour; he couldn't play help defense with an oar in each hand and struggled to rebound over him all night, but attacked the lane well and only took open mid-range shots.

Mirza Teletovic POWER FORWARD

Gave the Nets some great minutes down the stretch, hitting two threes in the fourth quarter to keep the Nets lead alive and keep Paul Pierce rested on the bench.

Mason Plumlee CENTER

Set a new career-high for assists before the first half was over, so that's cool. Threw a pair of assists for Shaun Livingston dunks, created a few dunk opportunities by running the floor, and other than his (and the team's) inability to keep Omer Asik off the glass, a solid game punctuated by a dunk with under two minutes left.