Starting to sense a trend here.
Pierce, coming off the bench in consecutive games for the first time in his 16-year career, had 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists in 26 minutes in the Nets’ 102-93 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers Thursday night at Barclays Center.
“I’m playing my part in this, that’s what it is. I’m trying to lead the second team,” Pierce said. “We’ve developed some chemistry with that unit, so as long as things keep going where we’re winning games, like I said, I’m sacrificing for the good of the team.”
Pierce went 2-for-7 from the field, hitting his first two shots since breaking a bone in his right hand. He says he’s getting used to the protective glove he wears over his injured hand.
“Last night [I] took it out to the movies,” Pierce joked. “Maybe I’ll get on a boat ride with it and do a candle light dinner. We’re getting to know each other very well.”
The Nets trailed by as many as 13 points, but the second unit helped them pull off a 25-point turnaround. Pierce has served mostly as a facilitator, and has shined in that role.
Will it continue?
We’ll have to wait and see.
Question: Should the Nets continue bringing Pierce off the bench?
In case you missed it: Deron Williams was dominant, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce had an emotional reunion with Doc Rivers, and Jason Kidd needs to be like Doc if the Nets are going to be contenders.
Nice sked: Brooklyn's next four opponents have losing records.
Up next: Nets at Pistons Friday night
Phil Jackson, Pat Riley and Gregg Popovich were among the coaching behemoths at the camp. But there was one featured speaker whom Kidd naturally gravitated toward -– Doc Rivers.
When Rivers spoke to the coaches, Kidd felt as if the Clippers coach was talking directly to him.
“I have that power when I talk to people,” Doc cracked to reporters. “Don’t you guys feel that way?”
If there is one former player turned coach whom Kidd wants to and needs to emulate the most, it has to be Rivers. If the Nets are going to contend for a title this season, Kidd has to become something close to Doc and has to do it by April.
Kidd, though, has the Nets playing their best basketball after a tumultuous and injury-ravaged start. He has his first three-game winning streak, and the Nets look like a completely different team than were even just a week ago, when they had their doors blown off by the Knicks.
Deron Williams is back playing with the confidence of an elite point guard and even had Chris Paul on his heels on a few plays. The Nets are playing better defense, and they just look like a team slowly gaining confidence and piecing things together.
“For the first time in a long time, I can honestly say every guy is trusting the [defensive] schemes,” Garnett said of what has changed.
His teammates were spread out. It was just he and Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul, isolated against one another, mano a mano, at the top of the key.
Williams dribbled between his legs twice, then with his right hand before crossing over to his left.
Williams got right past him, drove into the paint and flipped up a high-arcing layup. The ball caromed off the right side of the rim and hit the backboard before falling through the net.
Williams, the head of his team’s snake, the engine that makes his team run, is back.
So are the Nets.
Williams had his second consecutive dominant performance since returning from a sprained left ankle, scoring 12 of his 15 points in the second quarter, and the Nets rolled to a 102-93 victory over the Clippers on Thursday night at Barclays Center.
“He has to be our leader. Hands down,” teammate Paul Pierce said. “He changes the outlook of this team. We look like a whole different team now. We’re able to get easier baskets and put pressure on the defense.
“A lot of times we looked organized [while he was out], but with him out there as our leader and as a point guard, he’s getting us in the right spots and that’s what I envisioned.”
Williams, who added five rebounds and four assists in 27 minutes, missed nine straight games, but has averaged 20 points on 56 percent shooting since he’s come back. He looks very much like the player who carried the Nets in the second half of last season and nothing like the player who has been hurt and ineffective on so many occasions.
“Deron’s play is dictating how we’re coming out and starting games,” teammate Kevin Garnett said. “He’s pushing the pace, he’s directing, he’s leading. He’s being Deron Williams and I really feel like that’s the difference.”
Williams is now 15-5 all-time against Paul, who had 20 points but a season-low two assists. Defensively, the Nets (8-14) held the Clippers (15-9) to opponent season lows in field goal percentage (37.1) and made field goals (26).
“It’s great going against him,” Williams said of Paul. “He’s one of the best point guards in this game, one of the best players in this league. It’s a challenge every time I step on the court against him, and we’re friends so it’s fun to play against him.”
How close is Williams to being 100 percent?
“I’m getting there,” he replied. “I’m still getting my momentum and my body right.”
It was an emotional reunion for Garnett, Rivers and Paul Pierce, the trio that guided the Boston Celtics to the franchise’s latest championship their first season together in 2007-08.
“It was a bit weird. I said something to ‘Truth’ [Pierce], like, ‘Man, this feels weird,’” Garnett said after his and Pierce’s Brooklyn Nets defeated Rivers’ Los Angeles Clippers, 102-93, Thursday at Barclays Center.
“And just overall [he’s] a great role model. No one’s perfect -- all humans have their flaws -- but he’s damn near close to it. I’m just grateful that he just came into my life and I’m able to share that experience with him.”
Added Pierce: “It was just fun to go over there, say hi to him, and seeing how he’s doing. I asked him how was Boston [Wednesday night], he was like, ‘You’re next.’ He was very emotional. But it was fun. I actually went over to him and told him I know all his plays, and I’m going to give them away, so it was fun.”
Rivers spent nine seasons in Boston, coaching Pierce for all of them and Garnett for six of them. During the summer, it appeared that all three of them would be headed to L.A., but it didn’t work out.
Rivers became the coach of the Clippers, but Pierce and Garnett ended up with the Nets following the completion of a blockbuster trade.
“I grew under him,” Pierce said. “I was a young player, played nine years with him, just continued to mature and become an all-around player under him. Before I was really known as a scorer and he took over and taught me the other parts of the game: the defense, the rebounding, the passing. He just helped my game grow and mature.”
Pierce and Garnett have struggled mightily since coming to Brooklyn, but it appears things are starting to come together. With both playing integral roles, the Nets (8-14) have won three straight games for the first time this season. On Thursday, Garnett had two points and six rebounds in 15 minutes, while Pierce, coming off the bench in consecutive games for the first time in his 16-year career, scored 10 points, grabbed 7 rebounds and dished out 5 assists in 26 minutes.
Rivers’ Clippers are fourth in the Western Conference with a 15-9 record.
The relationship among the three remains just as strong to this day.
“[Doc and I] keep in contact all the time. We text,” Pierce said. “When you accomplish something special like a championship, and things like that, I still keep in contact with a lot of my teammates that were on that championship team. It’s like a connection that you have for life when you do something like that.”
How sweep it is for Brooklyn Nets forwards Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
Two days after taking care of the Boston Celtics, Pierce and Garnett got the best of Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers in a 102-93 victory Thursday at Barclays Center.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Nets (8-14) increased their season-high winning streak to three. And they did so by securing their first signature victory in a long time over the Clippers (15-9), who were playing their third game in four nights. Brooklyn led by as many as 23 points.
Deron Williams played like a $98 million engine, guiding the Nets with 15 points, five rebounds and four assists in 27 minutes. Joe Johnson added 21 points on 8-for-13 shooting.
Pierce, who came off the bench in consecutive games for the first time in his career, did well again as a facilitator of the second unit, putting up 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Andray Blatche also had a solid night off the bench, chipping in 21 points and nine rebounds.
Brook Lopez (16 points and seven rebounds in 28 minutes) re-sprained his left ankle late in the third quarter and did not return to the game.
Chris Paul had 20 points and a season-low two assists. Blake Griffin had 12 points on 2-for-8 shooting.
The Nets shot 44.6 percent from the field, while holding the Clippers to 37.1 percent. Brooklyn went 28-for-30 from the free-throw stripe and 8-for-20 from 3-point range.
CLOSING TIME: The Nets closed the first half on a 46-21 run. Just like that, a 13-point deficit had become a 12-point lead. They had their best quarter of the season in terms of margin, outscoring the Clippers, 36-19, in the second. Then they had another fantastic third quarter, outscoring Los Angeles, 27-18. They have won three thirds in a row.
UP NEXT: Nets at Pistons on Friday night.
Lopez plans to travel to Detroit for Friday night’s game, and wants to play, but is uncertain if he will, saying it will be up to trainer Tim Walsh.
“I just sprained it a little. It’ll be all right,” Lopez said.
Lopez suffered the injury with about four minutes remaining in the third, when he stumbled to the floor after being double-teamed in the post. He came up limping and checked out of the game.
But after being worked on by Walsh, Lopez checked back in, only to check out again and head to the locker room shortly thereafter. Lopez did return to the bench in the fourth before heading back in with the game out of reach.
Lopez, 25, missed seven games after originally spraining his left ankle Nov. 15 in Phoenix.
Lopez finished Thursday night’s game with 16 points and seven rebounds in 27 minutes.
He came into the game ranked second in the NBA in Player Efficiency Rating behind only Miami Heat forward LeBron James.
The Nets and New York Knicks are among the teams pursuing Lowry to upgrade their backcourt, sources previously told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein and ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard, but Toronto’s steep asking price has prevented any deal from completion.
Brooklyn is very limited in what it can offer as far as trade assets are concerned; the Nets cannot move a first rounder until 2020. The rights to European sharpshooter Bojan Bogdanovic could be intriguing to a potential trade partner. Bogdanovic, 24, is averaging 17.3 points and shooting 41.5 percent from 3-point range for Fenerbahce Ulker (Turkey).
Lowry, 27, is in the final year of his contract and making $6.2 million. He is averaging 14.6 points and 6.7 assists while shooting 41.9 percent from the field.
Lowry would give the Nets a versatile guard option off the bench. Jason Terry has missed the last 11 games due to a knee injury, while Shaun Livingston has had to play more minutes than expected while Deron Williams was out; his production suffered as a result.
And he once had Lawrence Frank on his staff in Boston. So when the Clippers coach heard that Kidd demoted Frank just over a month into the season, Rivers was stunned that the two were going through a divorce.
"Yeah, it did," Rivers said before the Nets and Clippers played. "And it’s disappointing, quite honestly. Because I’m a friend of both. And I just wish they could have figured it out.”
As for Rivers' relationship with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the Clippers coach said he still remains in contact with his former Celtics stars.
"Me and Paul and Kevin, we talk so much," Rivers said. "It’ll be different from last night [when Rivers made an emotional return to Boston], but we talk so much. I haven’t coached against them in quite a while, so that’ll be different. That’ll be strange."
"This will be more fun," Rivers explained when comparing his return to Boston versus facing Pierce and Garnett. "Because I know Paul and Kevin and how competitive they are. So this will be a lot of fun."
When asked about Garnett's slow start to this season, Rivers cited that Garnett's minutes are down, "but I think Kevin has a lot of value to this team." And he thinks Jason Kidd will not have an issue continuing to bring Pierce off the bench.
"I don’t think he cares," Rivers said of Pierce not starting. "One way or the other, Paul’s a ball player. If I asked him to come off [the bench] he would have. He’s a professional scorer, he’s still trying to get 100 percent healthy. I don’t think Paul minds one way or the other."
Yet there are 13 Eastern Conference frontcourt players with more All-Star votes as of first returns, which were released by the NBA Thursday.
1. LeBron James (Mia) 609,336
2. Paul George (Ind) 489,335
3. Carmelo Anthony (NYK) 424,211
4. Roy Hibbert (Ind) 208,369
5. Chris Bosh (Mia) 156,364
6. Kevin Garnett (BKN) 102,825
7. Joakim Noah (Chi) 75,229
8. Jeff Green (Bos) 55,912
9. Luol Deng (Chi) 54,340
10. Tyson Chandler (NYK) 51,738
11. Andre Drummond (Det) 51,351
12. Carlos Boozer (Chi) 48,745
13. Paul Pierce (BKN) 45,145
14. Brook Lopez (BKN) 37,153
Of course, we’ve been down this road before: last season. Lopez was snubbed and got on the team due to injury.
As was the case last season, the NBA has gotten rid of traditional positions on its ballots -- opting for frontcourt and backcourt players instead.
Lopez clearly isn’t popular with fans, and that’s OK, as long as he makes the All-Star team. The 25-year-old is averaging 20.9 points and 2.1 blocks on 57.5 percent shooting.
The backcourt standings:
1. Dwyane Wade (Mia) 396,279
2. Kyrie Irving (Cle) 365,712
3. Derrick Rose (Chi) 272,410
4. John Wall (Was) 124,851
5. Ray Allen (Mia) 99,464
6. Rajon Rondo (Bos) 80,889
7. Deron Williams (BKN) 44,282
KG/PP VS. DOC: Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are expected to face their former coach, Doc Rivers, for the first time. It should be an emotional evening for all three men, who won a championship together with the Boston Celtics in 2007-08. Garnett and Pierce have had their struggles with the Nets (7-14). Meanwhile, L.A. (15-8) has been pretty darn good under Rivers.
D-WILL VS. CP3: Deron Williams and Chris Paul have had their battles over the years. D-Will holds a 14-5 edge in their head-to-head matchups. Paul (18.9 ppg, 11.9 apg) is widely considered the best point guard in the NBA, while Williams has been plagued by injuries the past few seasons. Williams (ankles) just returned from a nine-game absence and poured in a season-high 25 points Tuesday night. He looked like an elite floor general. This should be a fun.
PP OFF THE PINE? Pierce came off the bench for just the fourth time in his career Tuesday night. Will Nets coach Jason Kidd continue to do this? Kidd said Wednesday he had not spoken with Pierce about the possibility long-term, but he certainly liked what he saw from Pierce anchoring the second unit. Kidd said it may not be a permanent thing but should work out well as Pierce continues to make his way back from a broken right hand. On the injury front, Andrei Kirilenko and Jason Terry remain out indefinitely.
Just take a look at their results against the top-15 teams in terms of pace:
2. Timberwolves, 111-81 loss
3. Lakers, 99-94 loss
4. Houston, 114-95 loss
7. Denver, 111-87 loss
T8. Clippers, 110-103 loss
11. Orlando, 107-96 loss
The highest team in terms of pace that the Nets have beaten this season is Phoenix (T13).
Brooklyn plays as the third-slowest pace. Only Memphis and New York are slower.
All of that information brings us to the fact that the Nets are playing the Clippers again Thursday night at Barclays Center.
We should also point out that Deron Williams was not healthy for any of those games, and he appears to be now.
This should obviously help the Nets immensely, given that Williams can push the tempo a bit. It should also help that the Nets will also have Brook Lopez, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in the lineup.
Last time they faced the Clippers Nov. 16, Brooklyn had Joe Johnson and not much else. Their reserves played hard -- as hard as they’ve played all season, in fact -- but it wasn’t enough.
Plenty of storylines in this one: KG and Pierce versus Doc Rivers. D-Will versus Chris Paul. Will Pierce come off the bench again?
Should make for a fun game -- assuming the Nets, winners of two straight games for the first time all season, weren’t fooling us Tuesday night.
Question: What do you think the Nets’ chances are against the Clippers?
In case you missed it: D-Will feels a lot healthier. No decision has been made on Pierce being a full-time reserve yet. Plus KG and Pierce get ready to face Doc.
By the way: D-Will was named the Nets’ union player representative. Mason Plumlee is the team’s alternate rep. Ex-Net Jerry Stackhouse was at practice Wednesday for the team’s union meeting.
Up next: Nets versus Clippers on Thursday night. No shootaround, so stay patient until pregame updates. And, as always, thanks for reading.
Well, KG, you’re in luck. Because Thursday night, that will be the case when the Brooklyn Nets take on Rivers’ Los Angeles Clippers at Barclays Center.
Garnett and Paul Pierce were supposed to face Rivers on Nov. 16 in Los Angeles, but both sat out because of injury.
““Again, that’s the guy they won a championship with,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said Wednesday. “They have a lot of respect for [him]. He’s a very good coach. There will probably be some emotion. Probably being in a different uniform takes a little bit away, but still the tie of being able to win that championship and play for a good coach like that [makes it emotional].”
They have a lot of respect for [him]. He's a very good coach. There will probably be some emotion. Probably being in a different uniform takes a little bit away, but still the tie of being able to win that championship and play for a good coach like that [makes it emotional].” -- Jason Kidd
“I think they’ll enjoy it,” shooting guard Joe Johnson said. “We’re riding a two-game win streak, so I’m sure they'll be eager to try and defeat him, but I’m sure it’ll be a great moment for those guys to kind of reunite and connect and get a chance to shake his hand and dap him before the game. It’s a guy they spent a lot of years with, won a championship with. So I’m sure they're eager to see him.”
Johnson has faced his former coaches, Mike D’Antoni and Mike Woodson, in the past, so he understands what it’s like.
“Nah, it’s not strange,” Johnson said. “It’s like an old friend that you haven’t seen in a while and you look forward to seeing him, just dapping him up, because for a lot of guys, especially me, my career basically started with D’Antoni and then when I got to Atlanta with Mike Woodson, you know then that’s when I turned into an All-Star.
“Those two guys I’ll never forget them. They’ll always be great friends of mine. I can kind of understand what KG and Paul are gonna face tomorrow when they see Doc.”
Kidd attended a two-day coaches clinic over the summer and learned from Rivers.
Asked what he learned, Kidd responded, “I’d have to go back and look at my notes because it’s been awhile. But Doc is one of the top coaches in this league, and so I have a lot of respect for the things that he’s done. He’s also won a championship. So being a player and having success as a coach is hopefully something I can do. I understand Doc’s work ethic and everything and I respect him.”
He was hoping there would be a carry-over effect this season. But then, as has happened several times during his tenure with the Nets, he got hurt.
“I was excited about it and then injuries happened,” Williams said Wednesday, a day after scoring 25 points in 37 minutes, both season highs, and adding seven assists in his return to the lineup after missing 11 of the previous 12 games due to a sprained left ankle.
“[I was] definitely frustrated that I couldn’t do that [play at a high level]. I’m sure if people jump off the bandwagon, which is great, but I know what I’m capable of doing when I’m healthy. Unfortunately, I haven’t been healthy the last couple of years, which is frustrating, so hopefully, knock on wood, I can stay healthy and see what I can do.”
Williams, plagued by ankle injuries and weight issues for the majority of the 2012-13 campaign, suffered a sprained right ankle and a bone bruise during an offseason workout in Utah, which proved to be a significant setback. He missed all of training camp and most of the preseason, failing to develop chemistry with his new teammates.
In his first seven games, Williams was far from 100 percent, averaging 11.1 points and 7.4 assists while shooting 41.7 percent from the field. He then missed two games after spraining his left ankle in Phoenix on Nov. 15. Williams came back Nov. 20 in Charlotte, but reinjured the ankle and missed the next nine games.
But Williams looked like a different player Tuesday night. He orchestrated the offense brilliantly, facilitating for his teammates and finding open looks for himself. In the fourth quarter, he scored seven straight points, hitting a difficult scoop shot and knocking down a fadeaway jumper after he called for a clear-out.
So why wasn’t he as aggressive earlier in the season?
“I was hurt. I was hurt before that last injury,” Williams replied. “It was great for this [right] ankle as well to get the rest, it definitely was, because it was still hurting. I didn’t really have that blow-by speed. I’m still getting it. It’s still coming. It was definitely good to heal this [right] ankle while this one [left] was hurting.”
Williams said he was “a little sore” following Tuesday night’s game, but he says he’s fine. On Thursday night, Williams will go up against one of the NBA’s premier point guards, Chris Paul.
“It’s great,” Williams said of the matchup with Paul. “We’ve had a lot of battles over the years. He’s a good friend of mine and a great competitor as well, and I enjoy going up against him.”
The Eastern Conference being so bad has allowed Williams the time to get healthy.
“That’s the reason I wasn’t really rushed to get back,” he said. “I see we’re struggling, but then you see the East, you win three, four games and you’re back in it. That’s why I was kind of able to sit back and take my time.”
The Nets are a lot better with Williams than without him, that’s for sure.
“He’s one of the elite players in this league and the way he played was huge for us, and so being the head of the snake, the engine, it’s good to have that guy back,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said.
“I haven’t even thought about it yet,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said Wednesday. “We’ll talk to the staff, I’ll talk with him and we’ll make a decision. ... We’re not saying this is permanent. We’re going to take it day by day; that’s the only way we can do it.”
Pierce came off the bench for just the fourth time in his career Tuesday night.
“For him, going with the glove, getting used to the glove and also being out and having him come off the bench, I thought he did a great job with the second group,” Kidd reiterated.
• There were no updates on Andrei Kirilenko (missed 17 games with back injury) and Jason Terry (missed 10 games with a knee injury).
Asked about Kirilenko, Kidd said, “He’s getting treatment, and so that’s all I can tell you.”
"I didn't even think about that or put that into play, but you just have to smile and chuckle at it, because it was just something I never even envisioned coming into this season," Nets shooting guard Joe Johnson said.
The Nets (7-14) are now just two games behind the Boston Celtics, who they defeated 104-96 Tuesday night, for first place in the Atlantic Division and the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Point guard Deron Williams (ankle) had a huge game in his return to the lineup following a nine-game absence, posting a season-high 25 points and seven assists in a season-high 37 minutes. Williams was dominant, at one point scoring seven straight points in the fourth quarter on shots with a high degree of difficulty. Center Brook Lopez added 24 points. Small forward Alan Anderson, power forward Kevin Garnett and center Andray Blatche also finished in double figures.
Offensively, the Nets shot a season-high 55.7 percent. Defensively, they held the Celtics to 43.8 percent shooting, which is pretty good.
More importantly, they gained some momentum and a realization that they can be a pretty darn good team when healthy.
"I thought we showed some glimpses. But I'm not gonna get ahead of myself," Johnson said. "We've won two in a row and hopefully we can build on it. But I'm not gonna get too ahead of myself. I'm just glad that we got the win."
Question: How optimistic are you about the Nets?
In case you missed it: Paul Pierce may move to the bench full-time, though nothing is set in stone.
Pierce and Kevin Garnett weren't too emotional about facing their former team.
Plus, Ohm Youngmisuk's column on D-Will's dominating performance and my notebook on some defensive changes that could end up paying dividends.
Stat right: The Nets hadn't won consecutive games since Games 5 and 6 of the first round of the playoffs last season.
Up next: I'll have you covered at Wednesday's practice.
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