FRIDAY NIGHT FINAL
BROOKLYN NETS: With Kevin Garnett Still Out, And Andrei Kirilenko Joining Him, Mirza Teletovic Provides The Difference Against Cavaliers.
Looking like a team that slept in their own beds last night, the refreshed Nets resumed their march towards the playoffs Friday night at Barclays.
Playing the first of three games at home, the Nets handled the Cavaliers with relative ease, taking an 11-point lead into the half. Flatbush led by as many as 17 points, until they went cold, and let the Cavs creep to within 8 points with 1:30 left in the 3rd quarter. Marcus Thornton did well to keep the Cavaliers at bay, and put the Nets up 85-77 before the 3rd quarter buzzer sounded. However, Cleveland outscored the Nets 27-24 in the quarter.
Early in the 4th, the Nets went on a 9-0 run. Blatche put Brooklyn up by 10, and two possessions later, the Nets were back up by 12 points again.
Shaun Livingston immediately followed with an uncontested drive down the lane, and then rattled home a jumper on the very next possession, to put Brooklyn up by a 93-78 margin.
With 5:35 to go, Alan Anderson put Brooklyn ahead by a 100-84 score, and they never looked back. The Nets completed their recovery from a pair of overtime road losses in convincing fashion with a 108-97 victory over Cleveland.
Bench play was the highlight of the night. The Nets finally won a battle of the boards. They pulled down 41 boards, with 34 coming on the defensive glass. Mirza Teletovic was the lead window washer, as he cleaned up with 10 rebounds, 8 defensive, and contributed 9 points in 28 minutes. The bench as a whole contributed 48 points. Alan Anderson led the supporting cast with 13 points. Andray Blatche and Marcus Thornton added 10 points each.
Paul Pierce, who is increasingly dealing with various aches and pains, got off to a hot start in the 1st period, but later left the floor for a short spell. He returned to complete the game, finishing with a game high 22 points.
Kevin Garnett has yet to play in March. The Nets improved to 11-4 without him, with one game remaining before month's end on Sunday against KG's former team, the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Nets improved to 38-33 overall. They have now won 12 in a row, 19 of their last 21, and own an overall 24-11 record at Barclays Center this season. They were not able to gain ground on Toronto though, as the Raptors defeated the Magic in overtime. Therefore, the Nets remain mired 2.5 games behind the Raptors in the Atlantic Division standings. The Chicago Bulls lost however, bringing Brooklyn within 1.5 games of the Eastern Conference 4th seed, and the benefit of home court advantage.
Eleven games remain in the regular season. Of the Nets 9 remaining opponents, Minnesota is currently one game above .500, while Miami and Houston are the only others. The rest are sub .500 teams. Two of those teams are terribly desperate, as the Knicks are hot on the heels of the Hawks for the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference standings. The Nets must play the Knicks twice, and the Hawks once. Otherwise, the Magic (2 games), Pistons, 76ers, and Cavaliers are all in the second division.