The Brooklyn Nets have now won four out of their last five game after they beat the Charlotte Bobcats 105-89 behind strong defense, good ball movement and 25 points from Paul Pierce during their final home game of the month on Wednesday night.
The Nets have now improved to 24-26 on the season and are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, a half game behind Atlanta for fifth place and 1.5 games behind Chicago for fourth.
Pierce finished with 25 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals on 9-of-11 from the floor and 5-for-5 behind the arc. Pierce has averaged 14.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game in 2014 and seems to have come alive since being moved to the four as he is able to exploit mismatches.
“I don’t have the same step I had 10, 12 years ago,” Pierce said. “A lot of times I’m just trying to take advantage of different cuts, playing off screens, just kind of use my basketball IQ out there. There’s a lot of guys who are faster, jump higher, but I feel I have one of the great basketball minds in the game to where I’ll figure it out.”
The Nets had a six-point lead going into halftime as they shot 46.5 percent as a team. The Nets, and Pierce, broke out in the third quarter though as Pierce scored 14 points to increase the lead to 85-63 going into the fourth quarter. The big lead allowed them to rest their starters in the fourth quarter, especially big leading up to another game tomorrow against the Chicago Bulls.
“Ball movement on the offensive end everybody was touching it,” Kidd said when asked what made the Nets so effective in the third quarter. “It all started on the defensive end. Getting shots and then guys making the play getting a stop and then making a play for their teammates.”
The ball movement was indeed strong. Deron Williams led with seven assists, to go with 13 points. Every member of the Nets that played at least 10 minutes had an assist except for Andray Blatche. They had 19 assists in total with only five turnovers.
Behind Pierce, Andray Blatche, Mirza Teletovic and Deron Williams had 13 points each and Kevin Garnett had 10. Joe Johnson was the only Net that had a bad night as he was limited to just eight points on 2-for-8 from the floor.
At this point it seems clear that the Nets have turned their season around. They’re now 14-5 in 2014; they’ve picked up big wins against some tough teams and have done it all without Brook Lopez.
There have been a lot of reasons for the turnaround, but there was a noticeable difference in the team once Kevin Garnett went to the five and Pierce to the four in Lopez’s absence. That allowed KG to better focus on defense and seems to have gotten him more involved in the offense as he’s shot 57.6 percent in the new year.
“They’re the glue of this team,” Kidd said of KG and Pierce. “When you look at their careers, they’ve been through a lot, seen a lot, slow starts, fast starts. There is never any panic and you can see it through their play. Sometimes veteran guys get off to a slow start, but the guys are playing at a high level and you can see that in Pierce and KG.”
The Nets play tomorrow against the Chicago Bulls and then are off for the All-Star Break. They’ll be on the road for a while after that and don’t play at the Barclays Center again until March 3rd against the Bulls. That’s because the circus will be in Brooklyn next week so they are forced to take an extended road trip.