NEW YORK -- The Brooklyn Nets hadn’t lost at home in nearly 2 1/2 months.
But their 15-game winning streak at Barclays Center finally came to an end on Friday night at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks.
“Now we need to start another one,” Joe Johnson said after the Nets fell 93-88, suffering their first loss on their herringbone-patterned court since Jan. 31.
“Now that that streak is over with, let’s start another one for a month and a half to two months.”
Truth is, the fans seemed much more into Friday night’s game than the players did.
It happens. The Nets (43-36) know they’re basically going to be the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. And their coach, Jason Kidd, elected to rest starters Deron Williams and Shaun Livingston. Andray Blatche and Alan Anderson also did not play. That meant 25 minutes of Marquis Teague -- and the Nets were minus-6 in those 25 minutes.
Add in a 9-for-29 combined shooting performance from Johnson and Paul Pierce and a 14-for-25 showing from the free throw line, and well, you can figure out why the streak ended.
“We’re trying to win the game,” Pierce said. “We really kicked ourselves tonight. I think this game was really about what we did. We didn’t execute properly, missed boxouts and more importantly, free throws. A lot of these playoff games -- they’re going to come down to free throws. There’s going to be a lot of close games, and we’ve got to do a better job -- especially me [2-for-6]. I’m shooting [83.7] percent for the year and I missed four tonight. That’s very uncharacteristic. I don’t know, maybe it was a lack of focus for the 25,000th point. I don’t know. I can’t put my finger on it. There was a lot going on, but we’ve got to be better in those situations.”
On a positive note, Mason Plumlee couldn't miss from the field (6-for-6), while Kevin Garnett gave the Nets 18 solid minutes as he continues to progress in his third game since returning from back spasms. Perhaps most importantly of all, Jorge Gutierrez continues to develop -- and seems to have earned a lot of trust from Kidd.
“If it’s Jorge who has to step in and play some minutes at point in the playoffs, I’m confident that he can do the job, and I think his teammates are too,” Kidd said.
Ultimately, the Nets just want to be healthy by the time the postseason begins. That will give them the best chance to make a run.
“Right now the point is we want to get better,” Pierce said. “We’re not playing today -- we’re playing for the playoffs. These games are preparation for those moments -- running the plays, executing on the timeouts, helping one another -- the little things that are going to win games for us down the line in the playoffs.”