Nets might play only eight players, one starter tonight

Paul Pierce, Deron Williams, Mason Plumlee, Joe Johnson
Rejoice! It’s Bench Day! (AP)
Paul Pierce, Deron Williams, Mason Plumlee, Joe Johnson
Rejoice! It’s Bench Day! (AP)

The Nets have officially ruled Alan Anderson (abdomen), Shaun Livingston (toe), and Mirza Teletovic (personal reasons) out against the New York Knicks, and an additional three starters may not play.

Deron Williams (right knee tendinitis), Paul Pierce (sore right shoulder), and Joe Johnson (sore right calf) are all listed as game-time decisions.

If all six players sit, the Nets will run a rotation of Jorge Gutierrez, Marquis Teague, Marcus Thornton, Andrei Kirilenko, Mason Plumlee, Jason Collins, Andray Blatche, and Kevin Garnett. That’s a rookie and a 20-year-old at point guard, one shooting guard, one small forward, and four centers. Tonight could be very weird.

Williams sat out with right patella (knee) tendinitis earlier last week, and Pierce was hit on his bad shoulder in the team’s victory on Sunday night.

Real or not, these injuries look like late-season rest for the team’s best players as the team heads into the playoffs. Garnett is the only regular starter without a listed injury, and he’ll likely sit out the team’s finale against the Cleveland Cavaliers, if only due to the team’s general policy to rest him in back-to-backs.

The Nets can guarantee the fifth seed by winning either of their next two games, tonight against the New York Knicks or Wednesday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers. If they lose both games, the Wizards would still need to beat the Boston Celtics tomorrow night for the Nets to fall to the sixth seed.

If the Nets keep the fifth seed, they’ll most likely play the Chicago Bulls, and if they fall to the sixth seed, they’ll most likely play the Toronto Raptors. But if the Bulls win tomorrow night against the Charlotte Bobcats and the Raptors lose to the New York Knicks, they’ll switch: the Bulls would then get the third seed and the Raptors fourth.

The difference in seeding also has implications for later rounds. If the Nets play as the fifth seed and win, a potential second-round matchup would be against the top-seeded Indiana Pacers. If they play as the sixth seed in win, that potential matchup would switch to the second-seed Miami Heat. Both offer their own challenges and advantages: the Heat have LeBron James and are the defending champions, but the Nets swept them in the season series this year, and while the Pacers have struggled mightily to end the season, they also swept the Nets.

Tipoff against the Knicks is at 8:00 P.M. on TNT at Barclays Center tonight.