After hitting three big shots in crunch time down the stretch in Game 1, Paul Pierce roared to his bench, pointing at the floor and his jersey.
“That’s why they brought me here!” Pierce roared as he walked to the team’s bench during a time-out. “That’s why I’m here!”
But in the fourth quarter of Wednesday night’s 115-113 loss, Pierce wasn’t there at all, and neither was his frontcourt teammate Kevin Garnett. Garnett and Pierce both sat the entire fourth quarter as the Nets mounted an improbable comeback, tying the game at one point after trailing by as much as 26 and by 22 heading into the fourth quarter.
“I really wasn’t thinking about it,” Pierce said of the benching. “I was on the sideline cheering on my teammates. They did a lovely job getting back in the game, giving (us) a chance, and that was the unit that was out there. They deserve to be out there to give us a chance, a shot at winning. While we’re on the sideline, we have full confidence in that.”
Most of the quarter was played by Deron Williams, Alan Anderson, Joe Johnson, Mirza Teletovic, and Andray Blatche, with Shaun Livingston and Andrei Kirilenko playing short bursts near the end when the Nets switched to a defensive lineup. The Nets outscored the Raptors 44-24 in the quarter.
The two former Celtics put up the lowest minutes totals of the starters: Pierce played 24 minutes and one second, and Garnett ended up playing just 11:40, less than a quarter’s worth of playing time. But like Pierce, Garnett did not seem perturbed by the lack of playing time.
“It is what it is, man,” Garnett said in the locker room after the game, sweat still somehow beading on his forehead despite having showered and dressed. “I thought the group that was in there was rollin’. I thought they was the best team and the best group to play. I think they had the best momentum.”
Garnett even called himself and the rest of the starting lineup into question. “Gotta start games like that. I like the way we fought back.”
Personally, I think Kidd made the right call. You stick with the players that brought you to the dance, so to speak, and that five-man combination brought the Nets from down 22 to start the quarter to all even. Teletovic and Blatche both made big plays in the quarter, though Blatche also ignominiously made the costliest error, throwing away a pass with one second left that sealed the loss for the Nets.
But Brooklyn doesn’t have time for any what-ifs: The loss puts them down 3-2 in the first-round best-of-seven series, facing elimination with one game at home and a potential second game back in the tumultuous Air Canada Centre.