Nets Exit New Jersey In Fitting Fashion
NEWARK, N.J. -- The Nets made it close, but their final game in New Jersey ended up being the Philadelphia 76ers' night.
Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand wreaked havoc on both ends of the floor, stifling attempts at the rim and creating out of multiple offensive sets to lead the Sixers to a 105-87 victory, spoiling the Nets' final game in the Prudential Center.
"We don't have to trap as much [with Deron Williams out]," Brand said. "The defense won the game for us. Offensively, we shot the ball well, but we try to keep them out of the paint. Especially with [Deron] out, we wanted to make them play more one-on-one, and that's what we did."
MarShon Brooks and Kris Humphries led New Jersey's isolationist attack, scoring 18 and 16 points respectively. But a full Sixers' rotation was too much for the Nets to handle, allowing eight players to score between eight and 15 points in their Newark farewell.
The victory guarantees a playoff spot for the struggling 76ers, who have been freefalling since their red-hot 20-9 start. "It's a huge sigh of relief," Brand added.
The Nets' former stars -- er, players -- were out in full force, as the farewell prompted visits from players of Nets' seasons past. Honored players included Derrick Coleman, Kenny Anderson, Otis Birdsong, Albert King and Darryl Dawkins, whose pink suit came straight from the Craig Sager School of Wardrobe. Video tributes from former Nets, such as Buck Williams, Vince Carter, Kerry Kittles, Kenyon Martin and "Mr. Captain" himself, Jason Kidd, played throughout the evening.
Even Chris Morris, who once famously wrote "Trade Me" on his sneakers, was honored at the fireworks-and-flash festivities.
"It's an emotional time for the fans," Nets guard Anthony Morrow added. "It's exciting, but at the same time it's bittersweet."
Brook Lopez, the Nets' big man who'd played 246 consecutive games before this season's injuries limited him to just five, kicked off the ceremonies. "We would like to thank you this season or all of your support. You guys are a huge part of what we do," Lopez said. "We can't wait to see you next season."
Lopez will be a restricted free agent on July 1.
A sellout crowd by Newark standards -- the game was technically sold out, but there were open seats in nearly every section -- made more noise than the city has heard for a Nets game in two seasons. Fans booed the opponents, cheered big plays, expressed dismay at blunders, and most notably chanted "M-V-P!" when Kris Humphries -- yes, Kris Humphries -- shot free throws.
"I think they've been great," Humphries said of the fans. "We kind of wish we had a little more support, more numbers at least, but the people that came were great."
Brand and Iguodala did their damage in the first half in pick-and-pop sets, piling up a 10-point lead at halftime. When the Nets threatened in the second half, cutting the lead to one, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young created in transition and converted midrange jumpers to widen the gap. The Nets made two late pushes, riding Brooks and Gerald Wallace, but the Sixers' tough interior defense and calmness helped Philadelphia emerge victorious.
"We slowed down a little bit, got our sets together, got some stops, and guys got their confidence," Iguodala noted. "It was a group effort."
The evening was a fitting end to 35 years of New Jersey basketball: an early deficit, a frantic late comeback and a final collapse, handing their opponents a valuable victory.
Around The Association
Recap | Box score
MVP: The Spurs' blowout victory, which clinched the No. 1 seed in the West, was a product of team dominance and skill, and Danny Green's perfect offensive night led the way. He made all six of his shots (including four 3-pointers) to lead the Spurs with 18 points and contributed admirably to the Spurs' excellent defensive effort.
X factor: The ability to take advantage of opportunities in transition was the X factor for the Spurs' fantastic offensive night. The perimeter ball movement of the Blazers paled in comparison to the Spurs' pitch-perfect passing, allowing the Spurs to take advantage of continuously easy looks from beyond the arc in fast-break situations.
That was impressive: The Blazers aren't a particularly difficult opponent, but the Spurs' blowout win was both thoroughly commanding and absolutely unrelenting. The Blazers' 35-point loss didn't stem from a lack of effort, but rather from facing a team that's functioning as an unstoppable offensive machine in recent weeks.
Recap | Box score
MVP: No true standouts for the Grizzlies, but Marreese Speights had an extremely efficient game for the Grizzlies. The former 76er had 17 points on just nine shots, and he was able to snag a game-high 10 rebounds for good measure.
X factor: Kyrie Irving's team didn't get the win, but the NBA Rookie of the Year favorite did have one of his strongest games in a while, which allowed the Cavaliers to keep the game competitive up until the end. Irving had a game-high 25 points on just 16 shots, and managed to tally four assists and three steals as well. Irving has been perhaps the only bright spot for the Cavaliers this season, so it was heartening for Cavaliers fans to see him play so well.
That was in reverse: The Cavaliers disappointed fans of other teams more than their own fans with this loss. After Monday night, the Cavaliers now have the same lottery odds as the Sacramento Kings, and the Warriors are two games "ahead" of the Cavaliers in the standings, which of course only hurts their lottery odds. Welcome to late-season basketball with non-playoff teams!
Recap | Box score
MVP: Like usual, Ersan Ilyasova was on the glass all night (15 rebounds) and his 13 fourth-quarter points (19 total) helped put the Raptors away.
LVP: With 3:58 to play in the second quarter, DeMar DeRozan was called for traveling. In an oddly defiant move, he promptly tossed the ball into the tunnel and earned a quick ejection.
That was it: Despite the win, the Bucks have officially been eliminated from the playoff picture as the Sixers clinched the final berth with a win over the Nets.
Recap | Box score
MVP: Andre Iguodala's stats played a part in Philly's playoff-clinching win, and his impact can't be understated, but Elton Brand's insistence on protecting the rim decided the game. The Nets attacked with little luck, mostly in part to Brand's stonewall impersonation protecting the basket and intent to rotate downward to cut off lanes. His 14 efficient points didn't hurt his cause, either.
X factor: The bench. The Nets cut the lead to one in the third quarter, but Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young made key baskets in the lane and on the break to widen the gap, which the Nets never recovered from. In total, the Sixers' bench scored 56 points to the Nets' 32.
That was a goodbye: The Nets celebrated their final basketball game ever in New Jersey with an emotional halftime show and tributes from former players throughout the game, ending with a montage overlayed by Bruce Springsteen's "Born To Run" that many fans stuck around for. I would've preferred this Beastie Boys number: "No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn."
Recap | Box score
MVP: Roy Hibbert, Danny Granger and George Hill sat out for the Pacers. Paul George most certainly did not. The active wing had 27 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Defining moment: Both teams offensively rebounded very well, but the Pacers got the biggest when Tyler Hansbrough corralled a miss, got fouled and made both free throws -- giving Indiana a three-point lead with 26 seconds left.
X factor: Greg Monroe (18 points and 12 rebounds) helped keep the Pistons in the game, but his five turnovers and making just 1-of-4 late free throws ultimately sunk Detroit.
Recap | Box score
MVP: From the second he stepped onto the floor, John Wall controlled the tempo of this game. With a line of 16-5-14, he looked like the leader this Washington team needs.
X factor: Bench play. You wouldn't automatically think the Wizards are a deep team, but having Nene come off the bench helps. Wizards reserves demolished their Bobcats counterparts 48-19, leaving the Bobcats needing one win in their past two games to avoid the record for lowest winning percentage in NBA history.
That was quick: The first post-Metta World Peace-elbow ejection happened in the first quarter when Tyrus Thomas swung his elbows too freely. He played a total of three minutes. Lesson here: Keep those elbows low, guys.
3. Monday's Best
Paul George, Pacers: With the East's No. 3 seed sewn up and several starters resting, George scored 12 of his 27 points in the fourth to help Indiana beat the Pistons 103-97. He made 13 of 15 free throws and grabbed 10 boards.
4. Monday's Worst
The Bobcats: This looked like it could be the one. Then the Bobcats absorbed a 21st straight loss, 101-73, to the Wizards. If Charlotte (7-57) loses its final two games, it will finish with the worst winning percentage in NBA history. Suit up, MJ!
5. NBA Video Channel
6. Tweet Of The Night
7. Quote Of The Night
"We don't want to be the worst team in NBA history. We know that in the back of our minds going into these next two games."
-- D.J. Augustin, on his 7-57 Bobcats, which needs one win to avoid earning the worst winning percentage in NBA history.
8. West's No. 1
9. Stat Check
The Grizzlies' Tony Allen had eight steals against the Cavaliers on Monday night, tying the NBA season-high, one day after Chris Paul also had eight steals. It's the first time in 23 years that on each of back-to-back days an NBA player recorded eight-or-more steals in a game. That had last happened in April 1989, with John Stockton and the Kings' Danny Ainge turning the trick.
Elton Brand, Thaddeus Young and Jrue Holiday shared team-high honors with 15 points apiece in the 76ers' 105-87 triumph against the Nets. It's the fifth time this season that Philadelphia won a game in which none of its players scored more than 15 points, the most such victories for any NBA team.
10. Dunk Of The Night