The Nets, with Kevin Garnett back in the starting lineup, beat the Philadelphia 76ers 105-101 on the road on Saturday night.
Garnett, who missed 19 games due to back spasms, looked good as he scored 10 points on 5-for-6 shooting and had four rebounds and an assist in 13 minutes.
Nets Head Coach Jason Kidd said of Garnett’s performance, “I thought he was great. My thought at halftime was that he was done, he’s going in the right direction, going a couple of more minutes, so we gave him four more minutes. Again, he was great tonight, looked like he didn’t miss a day.”
“He’s a professional, I think I tried to tell you guys that earlier.” On a dunk KG had, Kidd said, “Man, that looked good, he looked like he was 18, 19 years old . He looked great, he was dunking the ball, his jump shot looked great. He looked like he was playing at a very high level.He understands what this time of the year means.”
The Nets were in firm control of this game against the lowly Sixers early and took a 57-42 lead into halftime. The Nets led by 20 points for a good chunk of the third quarter, but Philly chipped away and pulled to within 11, at 77-66, on a Tony Wroten jumper with 2:40 left in the third.
The Nets took an 81-69 lead into the fourth quarter, and Kidd stuck with bench players Alan Anderson, Andrei Kirilenko, Mirza Teletovic and Marcus Thornton a lot of the fourth. Deron Williams and Mason Plumlee (basically a starter at this point even though KG started this one came in around the six-minute mark with the Nets maintaining a seven-point edge.
One thing about Philadelphia is they don’t quit, unlike the Nets’ opponent on Friday night, the Detroit Pistons, who gave up on this season weeks ago. After Plumlee hit a jumper with 5:48 left to make it 90-81 Nets, Philly went on a 6-0 run capped by an Elliot Williams jumper with 4:05 left. A minute later, Deron Williams hit a three and was fouled, getting to the line to make it a four-point play and give the Nets a 94-87 lead with 3:10 remaining.
The Sixers would not go away, and pulled to within a point on a Michael Carter-Williams free throw with 1:05 on the clock. Teletovic, who has proven to be clutch down the stretch when given the chance, drained a three with 48 seconds left to make it 99-95 Brooklyn. Thornton hit four free throws after that, including the decisive ones that made it 105-101 with 7 seconds left to seal the win.
Coach Kidd said of the last few minutes and leaving the bench players in down the stretch, “Philly, give them credit, they kept playing. It gave us an opportunity to execute in-game stuff. Guys made free throws, we got stops when we had to. There’s no better time to get that, seeing who can handle different situations. Mirza makes a big shot, took a tough shot, didn’t hit anything, then comes down and makes a big three for us, he gets a tip out. This is a great time for teammates and coaches to see how guys handle different situations.”
On the reasons for leaving Pierce and Johnson on the bench in the fourth quarter, Kidd said, “We’ve been, with injuries all season, but to be whole and to have guys not have to play heavy minutes, unfortunately, Shaun (Livingston) played maybe a little bit too many minutes (36) for me tonight, but just to see how guys handle different situations. You never know in the playoffs, guys could be in foul trouble or hurt, so you got to figure out who can step in and help. Tonight’s a perfect example that it’s having three point guards out there at a time and playing with two bigs, and again, those guys that finished the game came up with some big stops.”
The Nets were led by Deron Williams, who had 19 points and 9 assists in 33 minutes, the most among the starters. Mason Plumlee had 16 points on impressive 8-for-10 shooting and notched 7 rebounds in 23 minutes coming off the bench for KG. Joe Johnson had 12 points on 4-for-9 from the field in 27 minutes, and Paul Pierce had 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists in 24 minutes.
The Nets improve to 42-34 and remain 2 1/2 games behind the Toronto Raptors in the Atlantic Division race after Toronto got a 102-98 comeback win on the road against the Milwaukee Bucks.