Nets hold off Bobcats for 10th win in row at home
For the Nets, the big story hasn't been about the team president for some time. Rather, theirs is a tale of a rookie coach who bowed to superstition and quit wearing a necktie when a winning habit ensued.
Their news has consisted of contributions from unexpected sources and, lately, of their dominance on their home court.
Helloooo, Brooklyn. The Nets Wednesday night won their 10th straight at the Barclays Center, defeating the Charlotte Bobcats, 104-99. The franchise hadn't had such a successful run since winning 12 in a row in 2005-06, when it made its home two rivers away in the Jersey meadowlands.
Again Wednesday night, there were some developments that could not have been predicted months ago. Mason Plumlee, the 6-11 rookie from Duke pressed into major minutes while Kevin Garnett deals with back spasms, scored 11 points and had seven rebounds. Shaun Livingston, whose unlikely emergence as Deron Williams' backcourt partner in offensive mischief was not in the team's original plans, scored 17.
This being the NBA, where whiplash changes of momentum always rule, it wasn't easy for the Nets. A 13-point second-period lead melted to two, an 11-point bulge early in the third dwindled to three.
And, with 9:18 left in the fourth, Charlotte reserve Chris Douglas-Roberts sank a long three-pointer to at last catch the Nets at 77. And Gary Neal's three-pointer with 7:31 to go edged Charlotte into an 82-80 lead, its first since midway through the first period.
Then a traditional dunk-and-free-throw three-point play by Josh McRoberts extended that to 85-82 with 6:12 left.
But, just in the nick of time, the Nets' poster boys took over: a driving layup, three-point basket and two free throws by Deron Williams, followed by a Paul Pierce free throw, a pair of baskets by Joe Johnson and a Pierce three-pointer.
That made it 97-92 Nets. And Williams' jumper with 37.8 seconds left essentially sealed the deal. Williams scored 11 of his 25 points down the stretch; Johnson finished with 20 points and eight rebounds.
"We had a lead and let it get away, but what I liked about the guys is that they didn't panic," coach Jason Kidd said. "They stayed the course."
So on a night when old pro Pierce scored only seven points and took only four shots, the Nets moved to 35-31, comfortably ahead of Charlotte (33-36) and with their eyes on catching Atlantic Division leader Toronto. "We're trying to gain ground," Williams said. "We're not worried about slipping. We're not worried about anybody catching us. We're trying to catch people. That's kind of how we're attacking things."
Pierce, averaging 13.5 points a game, didn't attempt his first field goal until the final two minutes of the first half, when he converted a driving layup. But he got by with a little help from his friends. Fellows such as reserves Andray Blatche, with 13 points, and Marcus Thornton, with 11. Plus, there was the swarming Nets defensive work on Charlotte's Al Jefferson, held under his 21.3 average to 18 points. Neal had 17 and Gerald Henderson and Douglas-Roberts each had 13.
"Deron was great, but it's not just Deron," Kidd said. "I have belief in anyone I put on the floor."
And to heck with wearing a cravat.