KG keys late surge as Brooklyn makes it four in a row
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Jason Kidd jokingly referred to Kevin Garnett as "the young fella" following the Nets' 102-98 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night before a sellout crowd of 17,732 at Downtown's Barclays Center.
Considering how well Garnett played against the previously red-hot Warriors, it wasn't that big of a joke.
Brooklyn's 37-year-old future Hall of Fame power forward finally flashed the form that made him one of the NBA's dominant inside presence’s during an 18-year career that has seen him capture an MVP award in Minnesota, as well as a world championship with the 2008 Boston Celtics.
Garnett scored 11 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter, pulled down four rebounds and collected four steals en route to his best all-around performance in a Nets uniform.
More importantly, his swipe of a Stephen Curry pass with 10 seconds remaining helped seal Brooklyn's season-high fourth consecutive win and helped the Nets climb into the middling Eastern Conference's eighth and final playoff spot with 47 games remaining.
"Offensively and defensively, he has been off the charts," coach Kidd said of Garnett during his post-game press conference. "Defensively, he has been incredible for us since that Oklahoma game (on Jan. 2). He looks like he's 25 (years-old) tonight, offensively, he looked like he was 21."
That might be pushing it.
But Garnett certainly fell into a steady rhythm on the offensive end when it mattered most, something the Nets are hoping he can continue with All-Star center Brook Lopez out for the season and $98 million point guard Deron Williams missing indefinitely with continuing ankle issues.
"I work on my craft every day so I expect it to be a certain way. So when I go to dial it up I want her to pick the phone up," noted Garnett, who will lead the Nets into battle against the two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat at Barclays on Friday night.
"Tonight I dialed and she was right there like she was supposed to."
Garnett certainly wasn’t alone in leading the Nets past the Warriors, who had won 10 in a row entering the contest.
Joe Johnson poured in a team-high 27 points, backup center Andray Blatche contributed 17 off the bench, Shaun Livingston filled in for Williams by scoring 13 points and Paul Pierce added 11 for the resurgent Nets.
“It’s Paul, Joe and even Shaun and we even played to the young fella today, KG,” Kidd said after Brooklyn dashed Golden State’s hopes of completing a perfect 8-0 road trip. “He had some great looks down the stretch, the turnaround jump shots.”
The win catapulted the Nets into sole possession of second place in the still-very-winnable Atlantic Division race, 3 ½ games behind the first-place Toronto Raptors, whom Brooklyn will visit on Saturday night.
After spending most of the first two months of the season trying to find his role on a team without an identity, Garnett is suddenly in position to help the Nets get back into serious postseason contention.
His work ethic during games and practice, and his undeniable leadership skills, are finally starting to come to the fore after his early struggles.
Pierce, a long-time teammate of Garnett’s in Boston, believes the Nets must continue to build on this stretch, especially with the Heat coming Downtown for the finale of what they hope will be a perfect four-game homestand.
"We just want to continue to finish up this homestand," Pierce said. "The [Heat are] the last team. The best team in the NBA in my opinion until somebody knocks them off. It's another challenge for us.”
The Nets, who actually stunned the Heat here in their home opener back in November, held the high-scoring Warriors below 100 points, marking the fourth consecutive game they have held an opponent under that total.
“I think communication, effort and trust [have been the keys to our improved defense],” Kidd said after the Nets won for just the fifth time this season when yielding more than 95 points.
Golden State, which put up 32 points in the opening 12 minutes, was limited to 20 in the second quarter as the Nets raced past the Warriors and into halftime with a 59-52 lead.
“I think right off the bat they came out and had a 32-point quarter, and normally, it would have gone the other way,” Kidd said. “But we stayed the course and in 2014, we have been doing that.”
Let’s hope that trend continues long into the new year.
Nothing But Net: Kidd referred to Warriors coach Mark Jackson as his coaching “role model” Wednesday night. Jackson was hired by the Warriors after spending a few seasons in the broadcast booth following a borderline Hall of Fame career as an NBA point guard. Kidd likely would not have received the chance to coach the Nets immediately after his retirement had it not been for Jackson’s success the past few seasons with the Warriors. Jackson also defended Kidd’s rough start as Nets coach, and his handling of the Lawrence Frank situation during his pregame meeting with the media. … Garnett’s 13 points were his most since putting up a season-high 16 vs. Portland on Nov. 18. … Livingston’s four steals against the Warriors gave him back-to-back games of at least three steals for the first time in his career. … Pierce hit his 8,000th career field goal Wednesday, making him one of seven active players to reach that mark. The others are Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Ray Allen and Vince Carter. … Mirza Teletovic grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds against Golden State after putting up 16 points in Monday’s win over Atlanta.