Mirza Teletovic leads Nets to win over Orlando
Last year Mirza Teletovic had that helpless feeling during the Nets’ seven-game series with the Bulls.
Teletovic’s lone minute in last year’s postseason came in garbage time of a 17-point win in Game 1. But with the 2014 playoffs opening up next weekend, he figures to get a lot more than one minute.
Teletovic scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half of a 97-88 win over the Magic Sunday night to reduce the magic number for clinching the No. 5 seed to one.
“I’m real excited because I didn’t play a lot [last postseason],” Teletovic said. “I felt like I could help and I didn’t. Now this is my second chance and I’m going to try to get hold of it.”
Those minutes will either be against the Bulls or Raptors, but regardless of the opposition, Teletovic has been gearing up for them since May 4.
Teletovic had his fifth game with at least 20 points, scoring his usual mix of 3-pointers and drives through the lane. Teletovic made 7-of-12 shots, with four 3-pointers on a night when the Nets hit 12-of-29 from behind the arc.
Teletovic and the Nets were at their best during a stretch of about 3 1/2 minutes between the midway point and three-minute mark of the third quarter. They went from trailing 59-55 with 6:58 remaining to being up 70-59 with 3:23.
In that quarter, the Nets hit 7-of-10 3-pointers and Teletovic hit two of them while playing eight of his 29 minutes.
Teletovic became the fourth player in the NBA to have at least 10 games off the bench with at least four 3-pointers. He is averaging 19.3 minutes and hitting 38.6 percent from beyond the arc compared to 9.4 minutes and 34.3 percent last season under coaches Avery Johnson and P.J. Carlesimo.
While Teletovic led the Nets in points, another player who didn’t get any time in the postseason had a big game.
Unlike Teletovic, rookie Mason Plumlee didn’t get any minutes because he was gearing up for the NBA Draft after finishing a successful four-year career at Duke. He wasn’t expected to play much after being the No. 22 overall pick but circumstances changed and so did Plumlee’s role, highlighted by a month-long stint as the starting center.
Plumlee didn’t start Sunday but he put up starter’s minutes with 17 points and 11 rebounds in 26 minutes. He notched his fourth double-double and is shooting 38-of-46 in his last eight games. He finished with 16-plus points for the third straight game.
“Oh, he had 11 rebounds, yeah he was good for us tonight,” said head coach Jason Kidd. “I don’t let him shoot outside the paint, so I’ll take the bullet for that. I think the big thing is that he understands his role and he does it well and I think he’s gotten better since the summer.”
Teletovic and Plumlee’s performances were the primary highlights for the 44th win and 16th in the last 17 home games. By the time they face the Knicks Tuesday, they might have secured the fifth seed since Washington is facing Miami Monday.
“It’s kind of hard because I know guys and some nights are tough since it’s kind of set for us in the fifth seed,” Johnson said. “But we really have to take advantage of these games because you want to have some momentum going into the postseason.”
“I still understand that we’re playing for something,” Kidd said. “We’d like to get that fifth spot but we have two games left against the Knicks and Cleveland. We have to continue to get healthy and get better each time we take the floor. That’s one reason why I brought those guys back late in the fourth to give them a different situation of time and score and being able to execute and get stops.”
Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.