Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Nets clinch playoff berth with 105-96 win over Rockets

The Brooklyn Nets, winners of their last 7 out of 10 games, remained home to face the red-hot Houston Rockets in the third game of a three-game home stand. A win would give the Nets three wins in a row, and 14 straight wins at home, which would set a franchise record for most consecutive home wins.

The Rockets come into Brooklyn limping, missing starting point guard Patrick Beverley (torn meniscus), star center Dwight Howard (cyst removed from ankle), and forward Terrence Jones (flu). On the Brooklyn side, Kevin Garnett missed his 17th straight game (“back spasms”), and Andrei Kirilenko and Marcus Thornton both were out due to a sprained left ankle and a lower back injury, respectively.

The Nets opened the game on a 10-2 run. Joe Johnson and Deron Williams opened the scoring with a hook shot and a short jumper, respectively, and then Shaun Livinigston scored the next six points, culminating with an alley-oop from Mason Plumlee. However, Livingston was forced to the bench a possession later, as James Harden drove to the hoop and got the and-1 bucket to fall, giving Livingston two quick fouls and pushing the score to 10-5. Johnson then proceeded to take over for the Nets, hitting three jumpers (one from three), en route to 11 points in the first quarter. It seemed like the Nets were on their way to another big home win, but Harden had other plans. Houston guard kept attacking the rim and getting to the foul line, scoring points and slowing the game. He scored 12 points in the first and went 5-5 from the foul line. In the end, the Nets took a 29-24 lead into the second.

Mirza Teletovic and Francisco Garcia began the second quarter with each easily surpassing the other on their respective sides of the court for easy buckets. On the ensuing possession, Jordan Hamilton hit a 3 for Houston, cutting the Brooklyn lead to 2, and on the next Houston possession, Omer Asik went to the line with a chance to tie the game. However, he missed both, airballing the first shot, and the Nets lead remained 2. The lead quickly ballooned up to 6 for Brooklyn, but a Chandler Parsons layup eventually tied the game. Livingston got the Nets the lead back, but a Jeremy Lin layup gave Houston a 40-39 lead, and a Francisco Garcia 3 capped a 16-6 run for the Rockets, putting them up 45-41. The Nets responded like they do (with resiliency), and an 11-0 run was capped with a Williams layup, putting them up 7. A Lin 3, followed by three Harden free throws brought Houston within 1, but Joe Johnson ended the half with a layup, giving the Nets a 54-51 lead going into the locker room. Joe had 17 points on 7-12 shooting, and Williams and Livingston had 10 apiece.

After 4 and a half minutes of back-and-play, the Nets began to take charge in the third. A Shaun Livingston dunk ignited an 11-2 Brooklyn run, with Livingston and Johnson scoring a combined 9 of those 11 points. Houston had missed 6 straight shots, before a Francisco Garcia 3 was the beginning of a 12-2 run, pulling them within 1. Johnson replied like he had all night, hitting a three pushing the lead to 4, where it would stay going into the fourth. Johnson had 30, Livingston had 16, and James Harden had 26 for Houston, 16 from the foul line.

The Nets took control in the fourth and began to pull away. A Mirza three put Brooklyn up 8, and they never looked back after that. The closest Houston came was 6, and that occurred on the next possession with an Asik tip in off an Isaiah Canaan missed layup. The dagger eventually fell for Houston with 1:43 left, on a Mason Plumlee dunk off a feed from Joe Johnson. Johnson finished with 32 points on 13-21 shooting, 4-8 from three. Andray Blatche had 13 off the bench, and Marquis Teague got in the game, playing 44 seconds and hoisting up one shot.

With the win, the Nets clinched a playoff birth, their second in two years in Brooklyn. They also won their 14th straight game at Barclays Center, and broke 104 points for the 9th straight game. They next play tomorrow night in Manhattan against the Knicks, for “Battle of the Boroughs: Part 3”. Each team has one blowout win against the other so far this season.

Final Score: 105-96, Nets
Most Disappointing Stat of the Game: Omer Asik, 23 rebounds
Promising Stat of the Game: Joe Johnson, 13-21 from the field
Scariest Moment of the Game: Houston's 12-2 run, cutting the lead to 1
Best Moment of the Game: Clinching a playoff berth!

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