Small ball is the name of the game!
Since the beginning of the year, coach Jason Kidd adjusted the style of play for the Brooklyn Nets (40-33). Instead of using a big lineup, Kidd shifted Kevin Garnett or Mason Plumlee to Center, and shifted Paul Pierce to Power Forward. The result has been a 30-12 record in 2014, and an unexpected playoff berth.
Brooklyn increased their home game win streak to 14 games -- a franchise record -- with a sound 105-96 victory over the Houston Rockets. Houston, who has been playing some of their best basketball as of late, was able to keep the game close for the 1st three quarters. In the 4th, it was all Brooklyn.
Joe Johnson was the star of the night, and his hot start led the Nets to a 29-24 lead after one -- Johnson scored 11 points off 5-8 shooting in the quarter.
Chandler Parson’s driving lay up with 8:07 to go in the 2nd, tied the game at 35, and later, Francisco Garcia made a corner 3-pointer to give the Rockets a 4-point cushion. That lead was short lived, and the Nets responded with a 11-0 run -- Deron Williams had two driving lay ups, Johnson made a pair of free throws, a floater, and provided a pass to Mason Plumlee for a dunk in transition.
Jeremy Lin made a 3-pointer to cut the lead to four, and then James Harden made three free throws to bring the Rockets within one. At the half, the Rockets trailed the Nets 54-51.
Brooklyn held Houston to 41% from the field, but what kept Houston in the game was 3-point shooting -- Brooklyn made 1-11, the Rockets made 7-20. Brooklyn finished the half, shooting 52% from the field.
Houston cut the deficit to one three times in the 3rd quarter, but couldn’t take the lead. Midway through the period, Brooklyn went on an 11-2 run to push their advantage to 11, but Houston responded with consecutive threes from Garcia and Parsons.
The Rockets ended the quarter on a 12-5 run. Going into the 4th, the Nets led 83-79.
In the 4th, Brooklyn began to pull away. After making a free throw, on the following possession, Andray Blatche found Mirza Teletovic open for three to give the Nets an 8-point lead.
Teletovic made another 3-pointer later in the quarter to push the Nets advantage to 10, and with 1:14 remaining, he made a baseline jumper to give the Nets a 13-point lead.
With this win, Brooklyn has clinched a playoff berth, and they now trail both the Chicago Bulls and the Toronto Raptors by 1.5 games for home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Key Stats: Joe Johnson led the Nets with 32 points. Shaun Livingston had 17 points and 6 rebounds. Deron Williams had 12 points and 6 assists. Mason Plumlee finished with 11 points and 6 rebounds. Andray Blatche scored 13 points, and Mirza Teletovic also contributed with 10 points and 7 rebounds off the bench.
James Harden led the Rockets with 26 points and 7 assists. Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons scored 16 points each -- Parsons also grabbed 8 rebounds. Omer Asik finished with 12 points and a career-high 23 rebounds. Francisco Garcia contributed with 10 points off the bench.
Key Notes: Dwight Howard didn’t play due to a sprained left ankle. Patrick Beverley is out with a sprained right knee. Terrence Jones had flu-like symptoms and didn’t play. Greg Smith didn’t play due to a right knee injury. Andrei Kirilenko missed another game due to a sprained left ankle. Marcus Thornton didn’t play due to a back injury. Kevin Garnett is still out with back spasms.