Nets start regulars, pull out win over Pistons
Before the Nets concluded their first regular season in Brooklyn, rookie Tyshawn Taylor took the microphone and addressed the crowd. After thanking them for their support, Taylor said the team planned on taking care of business in the postseason.
The first order of business is now beating the Bulls.
While the Nets closed out the regular season with a 103-99 victory over the Pistons, they learned their first playoff opponent in six years will be the Bulls with Game 1 at the Barclays Center on Saturday night.
During the regular season, Brooklyn dropped three of four meetings to the Bulls. The last was a 92-90 setback two weeks ago in Brooklyn but since that point the Nets won six out of seven to reach 49 wins while Chicago split its final eight games and finished 45-37.
“They’re an excellent team,” interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo said. “They beat us three out of four. They’re really experienced. They’re an excellent defensive team, an excellent defensive team. It’s going to be a helluva challenge.”
The Nets will oppose the Bulls for the second time in the postseason. The previous instance was as an eight seed in 1998, which resulted in a three-game sweep for the Bulls en route to their sixth championship with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and head coach Phil Jackson.
“It’s going to be fun,” center Brook Lopez said. “They’re a physical team, a very aggressive team. We’ll have to try to match their intensity, but I think we’ve got the right group of guys, the right passion, the right drive and we’ll be all right.”
“I’m excited about being back in the playoffs after not being there the last couple of years,” point guard Deron Williams said. “I’m ready to go.”
On Monday, it appeared Atlanta was the likely opponent. Atlanta had a half-game lead over Chicago but failed to secure that matchup with the Nets by getting blown out in Toronto Tuesday.
Atlanta seemed to concede the fifth spot by resting its starting lineup and then lost by six by against the Knicks, who also sat several key players. Chicago played all of its key players and started quickly before holding off the Wizards, a result that ultimately proved irrelevant since the Hawks lost.
The Nets did not pull the same rest tactic as the Hawks. They did that on Monday but chose to limit the minutes of Williams, Lopez and Joe Johnson, who saw 21 minutes apiece and combined on 13-for-28 shooting.
“The main thing was to get a good run for the guys who didn’t play the other day,” Carlesimo said. “They all got 20 minutes.”
The trio played the entire first quarter when the Nets sprinted out to an 11-point lead. They sat for the whole second quarter as the lead increased to 60-48 and returned for most of the third quarter as the lead expanded to 83-66.
The alternating quarters for the starters was part of the plan to get those players a sweat during a run of full-contact, full-court action. Had they sat for a second straight game, they would have gone nearly a week without playing a regular game and with only a few practices.
Lopez, who will be attempting to provide offense against Chicago big men Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, led the Nets with 20 points and nine rebounds. Johnson had 10 and Williams, who may or may not be opposing Derrick Rose, had eight points and six assists.
The reserves were led by Andray Blatche, who scored 15 points, including his third 3-pointer of the season. Kris Humphries added 11 points and seven rebounds.
Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.