Brooklyn climbs above .500 with wire-to-wire win over Grizzlies
by John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Nets refuse to look in their rear-view mirror, stop to smell the roses or rest on their laurels.
Following a furious nine-week push to climb above .500 for the first time this season, Brooklyn players weren’t the least bit interested in fawning over themselves after Wednesday night’s impressive 103-94 victory over the visiting Memphis Grizzlies in front of 17,053 fans at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
“To get to this point, where we’re a game over .500, it’s not time to exhale,” All-Star shooting guard Joe Johnson insisted after scoring a game-high 21 points in the Nets’ fourth straight win overall and sixth in a row at home.
“Obviously, we’ve been on an uphill climb pretty much the whole year. … We have to keep our foot on the gas and keep going.”
Deron Williams scored 16 points and handed out seven assists, newly acquired sharpshooter Marcus Thornton added 20 points off the bench and Paul Pierce finished with 14 for Brooklyn, which improved to 30-29 after opening this much-anticipated campaign with losses in 21 of its first 31 games.
“It’s been a long journey,” admitted Williams. “It definitely feels good [to be above .500]. It’s been a long journey getting here. Hopefully, we can continue this play.”
The Nets will travel to Boston on Friday in the hopes of giving themselves a bit of a cushion above the break-even mark.
With 23 games remaining in the regular season, Brooklyn is three games behind first-place Toronto in the Atlantic Division standings and sixth overall in the Eastern Conference.
Though they’re likely playoff-bound, considering the lack of competition behind them in the East, the Nets remain focused on bettering their seeding as well as continuing to improve their overall play as next month’s postseason looms.
“We are above .500, but right now, we’re still working,” Andray Blatche insisted after scoring 12 points in 16 minutes off the pine. “We’re still trying to get a better seed for the playoffs.”
First-year coach Jason Kidd, who spent most of November and December fending off questions regarding his job security, again refused to put much stock in what his team has done to date.
The Nets are 20-8 since New Year’s Day, making them one of the hottest teams in the NBA since the calendar flipped to 2014.
But Kidd knows all too well that the team with the highest payroll in the history of the league will be judged on how well it executes down the stretch and into the postseason, rather than in early March.
“It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t,” Kidd said of his team’s ascension above .500. “We’re playing better. That’s all that matters. We’re playing better in the month of March, and that’s what you want to do leading into the playoffs. The record will take care of itself.”
Nothing But Net: F-C Kevin Garnett sat out his third consecutive game with back spasms Wednesday and may not be available when the Nets visit Boston on Friday. … The Nets are 13-11 against Western Conference opponents this season, including a dazzling 9-3 since Jan. 1. … Brooklyn has recorded at least 14 steals in three straight games for the first time since Dec. 7-12, 1985. … Four of the Nets’ last five victories have been wire-to-wire, including Wednesday’s triumph over the Grizzlies, who were without start F Zach Randolph due to flu-like symptoms. … G Thornton has scored at least 20 points in two of his first five games with the Nets.