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Here’s a roundup of last night’s Nets festivities.
What happened: The Brooklyn Nets, sitting firmly in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, dropped a close loss to the now-36-43 Atlanta Hawks, losing by a final score of 93-88.
Where they stand: At 43-36, the Nets guarantee that they will not have home-court advantage in the first round, and will finish with the fifth seed at best. The bigger movement came across the river: the Toronto Raptors slide down into the fourth seed behind the Chicago Bulls following a 108-100 loss to the New York Knicks, meaning that if the season ended today, the Nets would face the Raptors in the first round.
Both Chicago and Toronto have cakewalk schedules in their final three games: the Bulls only play one team over .500 (the 40-39 Charlotte Bobcats) and the Raptors don’t play any teams above .500. It’s plausible that each team sweeps the rest of their schedule, which would give the Bulls a 50-win season and set up a Nets-Raptors first-round matchup.
That Was… Slow and silly. Outside of a few moments of excitement, this was a game that didn’t matter in the standings for Brooklyn: Atlanta needed the win to keep themselves in the playoff hunt more than Brooklyn needed the loss, and the Nets even edged them along the way, perhaps intentionally: Paul Pierce missed two free throws and another three-pointer in crunch time, Joe Johnson missed another shot, and the Hawks pulled away.
Game Grades: Read ’em here.
25,000: Paul Pierce hit the 25,000-point mark Friday night, becoming just the 18th player in NBA history to score that many points in a career by hitting this three-pointer in the second quarter:
Pierce joined Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, and long-time teammate Kevin Garnett as the only active players with 25,000 career points.
“I told him, ‘welcome to the neighborhood, man,'” Garnett said after the game. “Congratulated him. 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.”
It was the only three-pointer Pierce hit in seven attempts, and he admitted he was pressing because of the 25,000 number in the back of his head. “It’s hard not to. Everybody’s talking about it. My family’s here, friends, that’s all they’re talking about, and I think I’m pressing. I was the same way when I reached the 20,000 point mark. I remember I couldn’t hit a shot in the first quarter, because I was pressing just to get it. I’m just glad it’s over with, and now I can focus on the rest of the season.”
Pierce also held a birthday party for his daughter at the arena tonight, which he said added to the distraction.
Nets guard Marquis Teague and Hawks guard Jeff Teague faced off for the fifth time in their careers tonight; Jeff as a starter, Teague as an end-of-bench backup. Teague earned playing time mostly because the Nets sat both Williams, Livingston, and occasional emergency point guard Alan Anderson.
Unfortunately for Marquis, Jeff got the edge in the head-to-head matchup, with no bigger showing of that than this filthy crossover that put Marquis on his butt:
How Ugly Are The Teague Brothers? According to Pierce, very:
It was Pierce’s night, so I’ll go with him on that one.
Feeling Blue: The Nets had another Brooklyn Blue Nights night, donning their gray-and-blue t-shirt jerseys for the fourth and final time this season. They’re fine, I guess, but I prefer the black-and-white look.
D-Host: Deron Williams hosted 65 families affected by autism in various quiet suites in Barclays Center. Williams’s five-year-old adopted son D.J. was diagnosed with autism three years ago, and Williams has become involved with Autism Speaks, an autism advocacy organization that seeks to spread awareness and understanding of the autism spectrum.
My Thoughts At The Half: Go Raptors!
Abdul-Jabbar, a Hall of Fame center and the all-time NBA points leader, was in the arena in Brooklyn to promote treatment for CML leukemia. Abdul-Jabbar was diagnosed with the disease in 2009, but says he can still live mostly a normal life thanks to treatment.
He also hit his patented skyhook at halftime, which was AWESOME.
Also taking in the game courtside: Katie Couric and Roseanna Scotto.
This occurred early in the first quarter; what could have easily been an out-of-bounds for Brooklyn, Plumlee unnecessarily ran down a loose ball, grabbed it, and tried to create fast-break points. It resulted in nothing for the Nets — Joe Johnson missed a three-pointer, and then turned it over after a Plumlee offensive rebound — but watching Mason Plumlee go full-speed in a game that resembled a 45 record played at 33 RPM just brought me all kinds of joy.
Plumlee finished the night 6-6 from the field, again going the entire night without hitting a shot outside of the paint. He’s now shooting 32-38 (84.2 percent) in seven games in the month of April. “Shooting 84% is pretty good,” Kidd said of Plumlee, without a hint of irony.
A Strange DNP: Andray Blatche returned healthy and active after missing two games with illness, but did not play despite his status. Coach Kidd said that Blatche did not have a setback with his illness, but just didn’t play.
Weird Math: The Nets limited the Hawks, who entered the game with the most three-point field goals in the NBA, to just 1-19 shooting from beyond the arc. Once-iron man Kyle Korver (who hit at least one three-pointer in 127 games until March 6th) shot 0-5 from deep, Paul Millsap hit their only three…
… and the Hawks still won.
Don’t Sleep On: Jorge Gutierrez. He’s the third-string point guard on a team that starts two point guards, and if he keeps up the way he played tonight, he’ll fill that role admirably in the playoffs if he needs to.
Locker Room Language: Funny moment in the locker room: after Pierce spoke with the media, Marcus Thornton yelled across the locker room: “Don’t forget who threw you that pass,” referring to Thornton’s assist on Pierce’s three-pointer that netted him 25,000 career points. Pierce fired back: “Your first assist all year!”
Next up: The Nets will practice Saturday before a Sunday evening game against the Orlando Magic in Brooklyn, for a chance to salvage Wednesday’s 115-111 loss in Orlando.