EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Nets' second unit considers itself anything but second-rate.
The team heads into Sunday night's game against Minnesota with a chance to finish 12-4 in March, and the subs believe they have played an integral, if not leading, role in helping the Nets get there.
"We feel like we're just as important as the first unit," Marcus Thornton said after practice Saturday. "The first unit goes out and does their thing, and we feel we have to go out and match their energy or be better and boost the lead up so when they come back in, everything's in place.
"Every night, we huddle up and we talk about it, the second unit. We huddle up before we go into the game and tell ourselves how big we have to be, and every night, we play the same way."
The Nets' bench played a starring role in the win over Cleveland on Friday, outscoring the Cavaliers' bench 42-14 with Thornton and Alan Anderson totaling 23 points and three assists.
Coach Jason Kidd likes the attitude his reserves bring to the game.
"It's a great competition about the bench not trying to upstage the starters but play better than the starters," Kidd said. "When you have that competition within the team, it can only make you better."
The starters certainly appreciate the support they are getting.
Said Joe Johnson: "We've relied on the bench all season. When our bench is going well, we're a tough team to beat. It's been great for us because like you said, our starters don't have to log a lot of minutes and in the playoffs and in the postseason, you're gonna need your bench, so our bench has been solid."
Notes & quotes: Center Kevin Garnett and forward Andrei Kirilenko will sit out Sunday night's game, and the team said it will issue a medical update on both players before the game. Garnett has not played a game in March because of back spasms. Kirilenko, who has a sprained ankle, will miss his fourth game in a row. The Nets have managed an 11-4 record during Garnett's absence . . . If the Nets win Sunday, it will be their 13th straight victory at home, tying a franchise record.