- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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The future Hall of Famers, whose transition from Boston to Brooklyn was anything but seamless, combined for 35 points on 14-for-20 shooting Wednesday night, guiding the Nets to a 105-89 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats at Barclays Center.
“They’re the glue of this team,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said of Pierce and Garnett. “When you look at their careers, they’ve been through a lot -- slow starts, fast starts, there’s never any panic you can see in their play. Sometimes veteran guys take a little bit longer to get to the starting line, but the guys are playing at a high level and you can see that with Paul and KG.”
In their past five games, Pierce and Garnett are shooting 64.9 percent and 57.1 percent, respectively. They finally know their roles and have embraced them, Pierce serving as a mismatch “power” forward, Garnett serving as a defensive anchor/rim protector at center.
“I think we’ve developed some chemistry since the new year,” said Pierce, who scored 14 of his 25 points in the third quarter, as the Nets turned a close game into a laugher, allowing their starters to get some valuable rest in the fourth. “You can tell by the way we move the ball, the way we’re defending. Everybody seems to be on the same page. And when you have that type of chemistry with that type of talent, we’re gonna be a tough team to beat when we put it together.”
Garnett (10 points) got it done on both ends of the floor, confidently hitting midrange jumpers and helping stifle Al Jefferson, who scored just one point in the final three quarters.
“P was unbelievable tonight,” Deron Williams said. “He’s been scoring the ball, and defensively he’s been great. Ticket the same thing. When those guys are playing at a high level, it gives us a lot more confidence. I think since P has moved to the 4 it’s allowed him to exploit some mismatches.”
Kidd has done a fabulous job managing Pierce’s and Garnett’s minutes. Over that five-game stretch, Pierce is averaging 22.8 minutes per game, while Garnett is logging 19.3.
On a day when Derek Jeter announced he was going to retire at the end of the 2014 season, it was easy to think about the longevity of Pierce and Garnett, and wonder just how much the 36- and 37-year-old have left.
Yet you can appreciate how their games have evolved, how they’ve adjusted as they’ve gotten older.
“I don’t have the same step I had 10-12 years ago,” Pierce said. “A lot of times I’m just trying to take advantage of different cuts, playing off screens, just kind of using my basketball IQ out there. There’s a lot of guys who are probably faster, jump higher, but I feel like I have one of the great basketball minds in the game to where I’m trying to figure it out.”
4dMarc Stein and Mike Mazzeo