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Here’s a roundup of last night’s Nets festivities.
What happened: The Brooklyn Nets played with just enough energy to win, bringing three starters back despite planned rest to close out the 97-88 victory over the Orlando Magic.
Where they stand: The Nets are now 44-36, guaranteeing themselves at least the sixth seed and further solidifying themselves as the fifth seed. The only way they could drop to sixth now is if they lose their last two games (vs. the New York Knicks and at the Cleveland Cavaliers) and the Washington Wizards win their last two games (vs. the Miami Heat and at the Boston Celtics). One win for the Nets or one loss for the Wizards will seal the deal, making the fifth seed likely.
There’s more drama in who the Nets will play in the first round. The Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors are currently battling it out for the third and fourth seeds, with the Bulls a half-game ahead and the Raptors owning the tiebreaker. With both teams facing easy schedules the rest of the way, it’s possible we won’t know Brooklyn’s first-round opponent until the last day of the season.
That Was… A bench showcase, a lineup experimentation, and a win. The Nets opened up a big lead with a 13-0 run in the third quarter behind a flurry of three-pointers, and Jason Kidd tried to let his bench close out the victory. But after the Magic closed a 13-point gap to six in the fourth quarter, Kidd brought back Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams, and Joe Johnson to close the deal.
Additionally, Kidd experimented with a two-big lineup — a rarity in Brooklyn these days — putting 7-footer Mason Plumlee next to 7-footer Kevin Garnett for a three-minute stretch in the second quarter.
“I wanted to see how it looked,” Kidd said of the two-big lineup. “We have different guys playing with one another, and it was all right. We can get better.”
Game Grades: Read ’em here.
Pregame Chat: Injured Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez came out in a suit shortly before tipoff, thanking the fans for their support for the Nets this season. Lopez, who was wearing a walking boot, hasn’t played since breaking a bone in his left foot in December. He was ruled out for the season and is not expected to return until next year.
Mason Plumlee’s easiest two points ever: Plumlee got these two points without even touching the ball, thanks to the Orlando Magic. He’ll take them.
Pierced: Paul Pierce has famously dealt with a “stinger” in his shoulder for the past four years, and he hurt the shoulder twice tonight: the first on a drive to the basket in the third quarter, and the second on inadvertent contact from teammate Andrei Kirilenko.
Pierce did not return with the rest of the starters in the fourth quarter, a move Kidd said was just precautionary. “I could have brought him back, but there was no need to bring him back,” he said after the game. “I thought the guys out there that were playing were fine. There was no reason to put him in harm’s way so we finished the game without him.”
Pierce left the locker room without speaking with reporters.
My Thoughts At The Half: Are you there, basketball Gods? It’s me, Devin.
Rebounding: The Nets rebounded from a loss last week to this same Magic team in Orlando by rebounding the basketball: the Nets out-rebounded the Magic 43-31, including a 14-8 edge on the glass, and put up 15 second-chance points. Mason Plumlee led the team with 11 rebounds.
Did Kevin Garnett Try To Yell A Shot Into The Basket? Yes, Kevin Garnett tried to yell a shot into the basket.
It’s Game 80 of the regular season. The Nets are up eight against a bad team late in the fourth quarter. They’re probably going to close it out. The team’s on cruise control, guaranteed the fifth or sixth seed and putting much of their first-round fate in the hands of Chicago and Miami. And yet, here’s Kevin Garnett, throwing superstition at a basketball and imploring a basketball to go into the basket with a primal scream. At 37 years old, Garnett is still the 12-year-old kid on the blacktop yelling “AND-ONE” before he shoots. Never change, Kevin.
Mirza Teletovic hit four three-pointers en route to a game-high 20 points, but the Magic also parted the lane for him to throw down one ridiculous tomahawk. Personally, I’m a fan of his face right as the GIF starts. He looks equal parts exuberant and perplexed.
Kidd’s surprise: Jason Kidd halted in the middle of a cliche-ridden answer about Mason Plumlee in shock: “Oh, he had 11 rebounds. Yeah, he was good tonight.”
Next up: The Nets play their cross-town rival New York Knicks for the fourth and final time this season, in a game that has little consequence for either team, as the Knicks have been eliminated from playoff contention.