Nets host Wizards with eye on playoffs

The Nets welcome former forward Paul Pierce to Brooklyn. (AP)
The Nets welcome former forward Paul Pierce to Brooklyn. (AP)

The finish line to this roller-coaster season is just four games away for the Brooklyn Nets (36-42), and a playoff berth is within their grasp. On Wednesday, the Atlanta Hawks threw a wrench into those postseason plans by beating the Nets for the second time in five days, winning 114-111 at Barclays Center. Despite three game tying three-point attempts in the waning seconds, the Hawks held off the Nets led by precision offensive execution that led to 35 assists on 43 field goals on 50 percent shooting.

And who can forget the beer spill heard ’round the world?

The Nets begin the day tied with the Boston Celtics for seventh in the Eastern Conference standings, but currently stand as the eighth seed due to the head-to-head tiebreaker (2-1). The Indiana Pacers remain one game back,and the Miami Heat fell to 1.5 games behind the Nets after their second-half meltdown at home against Chicago last night. After tonight’s game against Washington, the Nets will play in Milwaukee on Sunday before coming back home to play Chicago on Monday and Orlando Wednesday to finish off the regular season slate.

Tonight, the Washington Wizards (45-33) come to Brooklyn riding a four-game winning streak, albeit a dubious one; three of the four victories came against the East’s bottom-dwellers, the Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks. The Wizards currently rank fifth in the Eastern Conference standings, a game behind Toronto (a division leader locked into the top four) and two games behind third-seeded Chicago.

On Wednesday in Philadelphia, the Wizards shot a franchise-record 65.3 percent from the field en route to a 119-90 thrashing over the 76ers. Bradley Beal led the scoring with 21 points, and Marcin Gortat chipped in 18 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. John Wall got the night off to rest, snapping his 219-game consecutive game streak.

“At this time of the year, you don’t always have the luxury of doing that,” said Wittman. “And five days of doing nothing at this time for your body can mean wonders.”

The Nets have lost two of three from the Wizards this year, including a 114-77 demolition in Washington D.C. on February 7th. Without Beal (toe injury), the Wizards carved through the Nets defense led by the speedy Wall who led the way with 17 points and seven assists in just 26 minutes. The Nets, not helped by Deron Williams’s 0-for-8 night, shot just 33.8 percent and trailed 58-38 at the break. It wasn’t pretty.

Alan Anderson’s status tonight is questionable as he continues to nurse the sprained ankle which has kept him out of action the past three games. Joe Johnson (illness) and Earl Clark (personal) missed shootaround, but are expected to play.

Nene (sore shoulder) is listed as questionable after sitting out the past two games.

Playoff Watch: The Celtics tip off against the Cavaliers in Cleveland, and the Pacers play in Detroit. Both games start at 7:30 P.M. EDT.

What to watch for: Brook Lopez is just five rebounds away from becoming the sixth Nets player to reach 3,000 career rebounds, and just the third player to reach 7,000 points and 3,000 rebounds. Buck Williams and Jason Kidd were the first two to reach that plateau.

Tip-off is at 7:30 PM EDT at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.