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Saturday, January 11, 2014
Nets ran out of gas in Toronto

By Mike Mazzeo

Paul Pierce was fired up as he headed to the bench for some rest.

The Brooklyn Nets were leading the Toronto Raptors 62-52 with 4:31 remaining in the third quarter Saturday night at Air Canada Centre.

And despite not getting into Toronto until 4 a.m. Saturday following Friday night's thrilling double-overtime victory over the Miami Heat, the Nets had overcome a sluggish start and a 13-point deficit and put themselves in excellent position to secure a sixth straight win.

But things spiraled out of control from there.

Paul Pierce, Terrence Ross
Paul Pierce blamed Brooklyn's loss in Toronto on fatigue.
And by the time Pierce returned to the game 7 minutes, 13 seconds later, the Nets trailed 72-64.

An 18-point swing.

And just like that, the Nets are no longer undefeated in 2014 or when coach Jason Kidd doesn't wear a tie.

In their 96-80 loss to the Raptors, it seemed very apparent: The Nets simply ran out of gas.

"Fatigue really set in," Pierce said. "We didn't have a lot of depth. ... A lot of things were against us."

An 18-0 Raptors run and a more-than-nine-minute Nets' field goal drought (0-for-13) bridging the end of the third and the start of the fourth proved to be the difference.

On my Twitter feed, anyway, fans were, for the most part, extremely upset with Kidd's substitution patterns.

Why didn't Kidd bring Pierce or Joe Johnson back in the game sooner? Why did he take Pierce, who was shooting well at the time, out in the first place? Didn't Kidd realize the Nets don't play again until Thursday in London? What was he thinking?

Their frustration was understandable.

And yet, Pierce, 36, had logged a season-high-tying 44 minutes Friday night. Johnson, 32, had logged a season-high 46 minutes. Kevin Garnett, 37, who had logged a season-high 36 minutes, was given a rest day. And Shaun Livingston, 28, had logged a career-high 51 minutes.

All that being said, Kidd hoped he could get away with a lineup that featured Mason Plumlee, Andrei Kirilenko, Mirza Teletovic, Alan Anderson and Jason Terry at the start of the fourth quarter.

But it backfired.

The offense became stagnant, and the Raptors (18-17) were able to take advantage.

The Nets (15-22) didn't score until the 8:10 mark and didn't record their first field goal until the 6:09 mark.

By that point, it was too late. The Nets ended up shooting 6-for-19 from the field and were outscored 28-16 in the fourth.

Asked if it was difficult to manage his players' minutes coming off of Friday night's 58-minute thriller, Kidd responded, "No. They came out when they were supposed to."

"I'm pleased with the way they performed today," Kidd added.

Pierce finished with 15 points in 31 minutes, while Johnson added 11 points, six rebounds and six assists in 32 minutes. Livingston went 3-for-11 from the field in 31 minutes.

Without Garnett, the Nets were outrebounded 49-39 and gave up 16 offensive boards.

They held the Raptors to just 40.5 percent shooting but shot only 40 percent themselves.

Was Kidd right? Based on the outcome, it’s hard to say yes. But maybe in the long run it was the right decision.

Who knows.