Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams

Nets starters Johnson, Williams, Pierce, and Garnett watch from the bench in the fourth quarter. (AP)

MIAMI, FL. -- Deron Williams had just banked in a prayer three-point attempt as the third-quarter buzzer sounded, cutting the Heat lead to 79-66 with 12 minutes left and giving the Nets a sliver of an opening.

But Nets coach Jason Kidd elected to sit his starters for most of the fourth quarter, playing Kevin Garnett for just 76 seconds and sitting Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Paul Pierce entirely.

Kidd said he wanted to see if the bench could get them into single digits. "I wanted to give those guys, the starters, a break," Kidd said at the podium just after the loss. "Give them some rest. When we went with that group, I thought that group could make some shots, but also get some stops and get it to where it’s under 10, and then go from there. But it never happened."

Kidd defended the decision Wednesday afternoon at the team's practice. "We all trust one another and that is what this team is all about," Kidd told reporters. "We are a team, it is not an individual. It is not just a head coach. Not just a 19-year player. We are the Brooklyn Nets, and that is what we stand for, trusting one another. When things are tough and things are good, we continue to rely on one another and that is what makes this a special group."

Players defended their coach for doing what he felt was right, though they all agreed they wanted to play. "We’d love to get back out there, But that was coach’s decision," Williams said after the game. "He probably just felt like 20 points is tough to overcome at that point in the game. But as a player you definitely want to be out there."

Garnett kept it sharp and concise when asked about returning to the game in the fourth for less than 90 seconds. "Kidd told me to sub for Mason. And then he subbed me out. Following directions, dog, following directions."

But fans didn't much like Kidd's strategy:

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Nets Raptors Basketball

The Nets and Raptors start their playoff series Saturday in Toronto. (AP)


What had happened was: The Nets cast aside their usual uniforms and instead collectively donned a massive white flag in the final game of the regular season, which they lost 114-85 to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The game mercifully brought to an end a streak of uninspired, boring basketball the Nets largely played over the final two weeks.

The Nets made rest their first priority, as Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Shaun Livingston, Kevin Garnett, Alan Anderson, and Mirza Teletovic sat this one out. Instead, the Nets fielded a vaunted five of Jorge Gutierrez, Marquis Teague, Marcus Thornton, Andray Blatche, and Jason Collins. Andrei Kirilenko and Mason Plumlee made appearances of the bench, which was weird, because I wasn’t used to seeing NBA players on the court when they got in the game.

That was: A chore. No one wanted to watch the Nets’ collection of also-rans come out and skirmish with a non-playoff game when the team clearly didn’t give a damn, and this was in many senses not even an NBA game.

Where they stand: After a few days of jockeying, the dust has settled. The Nets will take the No. 6 seed and play the Toronto Raptors, who beat the New York Knicks Wednesday to cement their spot in the No. 3 seed, in the first round of the playoffs. Game 1 will take place at the Air Canada Centre Saturday on ESPN. Time TBD. With the loss, the Nets locked a spot in Miami’s half of the Eastern Conference bracket, which means Brooklyn will play No. 2 Miami in the second round if the Nets advance and Miami takes care of business against No. 7 Charlotte.

This came amid much dismay that the Nets would have to play the Chicago Bulls in the first round once again. The No. 4 Bulls will instead play the No. 5 Washington Wizards.

The stats: Well, they weren’t great. Marcus Thornton led the Nets with 20 points on 6-of-19 shooting — and shoot he did. The cuffs were off for Thornton, who is not shy about shooting in the first place. This was an exhibition in gunning.

Andray Blatche posted 20 points (8-of-18 shooting) and 12 rebounds and featured his usual collection of moves and hilarity. Andrei Kirilenko MADE A PAIR OF FREE THROWS and I don’t care about anything else he did.

Jason Collins was set free to fire, logging eight points on eight shots. The lumbering big man played 39 minutes, and you have to figure he’ll never play that many in an NBA game again.

Shot Chart Rorschach Test: A Christmas-themed square donut.

Is Marquis Teague in the D-League yet? That’s a nope.

Game Grades: Read 'em here.

Was this wise? Maybe. Williams needed the rest. If Johnson needed it, he never would have told you so. Pierce has his shoulder thingy, and Garnett sweats a new ocean after each two-minute stint. There were reasons not to care, but there were also reasons to try and avoid Miami in the second round and stay in rhythm.

Also, I take a little more seriously Jason Kidd’s assertion that Garnett’s minutes load won’t increase in the playoffs given that he had absolutely no chance to increase it incrementally during the regular season. The Nets can probably only count on him for 22 minutes a game in the postseason.


Shaun Livingston, not doin’ things: He didn’t play. That toe is really actin’ up.

Can you give me a comparison for the number of fast-break dunks the Nets gave up in the second half? Sure thing!

Across the river: The Knicks lost to the Toronto Raptors, putting to bed their miserable season and giving them 37 wins, matching the SCHOENE projection that Knicks fans were quick to call absurd before the season began.

Take that, Masai Ujiri.

Next up: The Nets start what they’ve been building toward since Jan. 1. Saturday they get to show that they really were built for the playoffs.



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Jason Kidd

Coach of the month in January. (AP)

Brooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd won Eastern Conference Coach of the Month honors in January, the team announced today. Kidd led the Nets to a 10-3 record in the month, their best winning percentage in January in their 38-year NBA history.

Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN originally had the report:

In the month, the Nets beat real contenders: the defending champion Miami Heat, the Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City Thunder, the Eastern Conference third seed Atlanta Hawks (twice), and the 29-19 Golden State Warriors.

Kidd underwent massive scrutiny in the first two months of the season, as the championsip-aspiring Nets stumbled to a 10-21 record through the end of 2013. But some subtle changes in the new year helped bring the Nets around to winning ways.

Kidd found a winning combination with the starting lineup of Shaun Livingston, Alan Anderson, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett. The 5 rattled off eight wins in their first eight starts together. The idea that Brook Lopez's injury forced the Nets into this lineup is a misnomer; the Nets could've gone in a number of directions before choosing this five. The hybrid lineup of a small power forward in Pierce and big players at each position created spacing and matchup nightmares offensively, while allowing Kevin Garnett to function as a defensive anchor in the paint at center. If Deron Williams is healthy, he and Shaun Livingston have a lot of potential as a two-point guard lineup with Kidd at the helm.

He also stopped wearing a tie on the sideline.

In that process, Kidd also engineered an offense that took six more threes per game in January than it had in the first two months, with that change alone ticking up Brooklyn's offensive efficiency quite a bit.

For the month of January, the Nets had the league's second-best record, behind only the 12-3 Memphis Grizzlies. They outscored opponents by an average of three points per 100 possessions, a number brought down significantly by their last loss of the month, a 120-95 stinker at the hands of the Thunder.

Kidd's son T.J. tweeted out his congratulations to his dad.



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