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.
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.

WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?

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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Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson (AP)

Paul Pierce called out the Nets after their 101-94 loss to the Washington Wizards, imploring them to play with a sense of playoff urgency in the last month of the season:
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The Nets had plenty to joke around about on Thursday. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Nets had plenty to joke around about on Thursday. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

 

Here's a roundup of last night's Nets festivites:

What happened: The Nets thoroughly obliterated a Denver Nuggets team that is a shell of its healthy self, setting the tone early by going up 29-8 after the first quarter and never letting it get closer than 20 points in atypical Nets fashion. The Nets won the second game of a back-to-back on the road, one night after getting spanked by the Portland Trail Blazers without LaMarcus Aldridge and Thomas Robinson and indicating total embarrassment to reporters after the game.

You could tell Brooklyn's intensity was at its peak, and it was clear Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett had no designs of losing this game. The Nets went on to pick up their first win in Denver since Jan. 2007.

Where they stand: The Nets are now 27-29, once again squarely facing that two-games-under-.500 plateau that has plagued them for the last few weeks. They're now 6th in the Eastern Conference, a half game ahead of Charlotte and two games behind Washington, which has won its last five including a triple-overtime thriller over Toronto Thursday.

The stats: The Nets somehow ended up shooting only 47.6 percent, but they held Denver to 37.5 percent and 6-of-22 from deep. The Nuggets had 30 made field goals and 24 turnovers. That race was close for most of the game.

Pierce led the Nets with 18 points. Everyone on the Nets' active roster scored. Yes, that includes Jason Collins, who had 3 points.

If I were a blowhard, I'd say the only important statistic is 1-0, the Nets' record in this game.

Fast breaking the Fast Breakers: 

Vintage Pierce: Pierce only had to play 22 minutes, but he was at his peak. He nailed threes from the top of the key and whirled into icy turnaround jumpers at the elbows. The Nets need this Pierce for the balance of the season in order to compete.

Joe Johnson still might not be healthy: Johnson sat out a game at the beginning of February as a result of knee tendinitis. The way he's moving and shooting, it appears to me that his knee is still barking at him. Johnson's not one to complain, and he never made an excuse last year when he bravely battled plantar fasciitis in the first-round series against the Bulls. But it might be best for the team if Johnson takes some time off now rather than soldiering through it. Given Kidd's hyper-conservative tendencies with injury and rest with the rest of his roster, I'm not sure why Johnson isn't getting the same opportunity to heal.

Kirilenko has been working on his granny shot:

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I defy you to show me a more Kirilenko shot than that.

Shaun Livingston, doing things: He did things. Nothing worthy of a GIF or video. But he was there. Stuff got done by him. He finished with 8 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals, and more than zero stuffs done.

The Alan Anderson/Marcus Thornton Experiment: Alan Anderson didn't play in the first three quarters of this game, and that was notable because he has played in every single game this season for the Nets. He's not shooting well (he's under 40 percent from the field this season and his three-point stroke has been ice cold in February). But I don't think his three-quarter DNP is necessarily a harbinger for things to come. This game was a good excuse to get Marcus Thornton some extended minutes and see what he could do with his new teammates. I doubt Kidd has made a decision either way as to which of them will get the bulk of the backup guard minutes down the stretch of the regular season and in the playoffs.

Andray Blatche wants nothing to do with your piggy-back rides:

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Andray Blatche was really good in this game, though: This was a quintessential #TheBestOfBlatche game. Granted, he wasn't wildly inconsistent and unpredictable, but he did all the good Blatche stuff with none of the dumpster-fire Blatche stuff. He had 9 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 steals in 18 minutes. And he drained a three from the wing.

JASON COLLINS HITS A LONG 2:

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Go back to Germany, Dirk. Your services are no longer required. Jason Collins got this.

 

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Danny Ainge

Celtics president of basketball operations, Danny Ainge. (AP)

In an interview with Baxter Holmes the Boston Globe, Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, who's been with the Celtics organization since 2003, opened up about trading Celtics Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets.

Some snippets:
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Paul Pierce left the Boston Celtics this summer after sixteen years with the franchise, the last seven with mercurial but sorcerous point guard Rajon Rondo. Rondo's known for a variety of moves and abilities, but likely none more common than his famous fake, palming the ball behind his back as a fake to shift the defender backwards before slithering past, usually for a layup.

Rondo didn't invent the Rondo, he only popularized it. So Pierce, now with the Nets, probably didn't learn the Rondo from Rondo. But he still pulled off a hell of a Rondo against the Dallas Mavericks. Watch above.