For the last five seasons, the last week of the season has been rendered meaningless as the Nets knew their next game would be a fall preseason game.
In their first year in Brooklyn, the last week of the season was rendered meaningless for the right reasons.
Starters sat but it wasn’t because of season-ending injuries. Instead, it was to give them rest for the next meaningful game which will take place this weekend when the Nets host Game 1 against the Hawks or Bulls as the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Last night’s 106-101 victory over the 51-loss Wizards meant little in the big picture and was more about getting Gerald Wallace through a game without further injury and giving some reserves and non-rotation players some playing time.
Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and Reggie Evans were among the six Nets to sit out. Veterans Keith Bogans and Jerry Stackhouse also rested.
That group of six watched as the Nets fielded a starting lineup of Kris Humphries, Andray Blatche, MarShon Brooks and C.J. Watson. They also watched as Tyshawn Taylor, Mirza Teletovic and Toko Shengalia received minutes.
Probably the most important thing for the Nets was making sure Wallace made it through the game in good shape after missing two games with a left leg contusion. The game seemed like an obvious one for Wallace to take a lot of shots but he did not take any in the first half. He scored two points while taking three shots in 23 minutes.
“I thought he looked good,” interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo said. “He’s upset with Timmy [trainer Tim Walsh] and I that he didn’t play more. The whole point was to get him out, get him a little cardio work, make sure his foot was all right and hopefully he comes out of it well tomorrow and he can play some more minutes Wednesday. It was exactly what Timmy wanted and we were pleased.”
Wallace joined the rest of the regular starters on the bench midway through the third quarter and watched as the Nets began the fourth with Blatche, Watson, Shengelia, Kris Joseph and Humphries. They ended the game with Blatche, Shengelia, Joseph, Teletovic and Taylor on the floor.
Carlesimo said any healthy starter will play Wednesday in Detroit, though they won’t get their extended minutes.
Humphries led the Nets with 20 points and nine rebounds, his first 20-point game since April 16 of last season against Miami.
“We need Hump,” Carlesimo said. “We’re not going to be successful in the playoffs unless we get the Kris Humphries that we know where he can give us the defense, the offense, the boards and the whole thing. So it was a big step for him.”
Blatche also had 20, while Teletovic and Taylor added 14 apiece.
The Nets trailed by as many as 17 in the first half and never led until Shengelia’s fast-break layup with 4:57 remaining made it 95-94. After getting the crowd back in it, the Nets took the lead for good (103-101) when Blatche outmuscled former teammate Kevin Seraphin for a put-back layup with 55.5 seconds left.
“It’s really good that some guys got to play that normally don’t play and other guys got their minutes stretched out,” Carlesimo said. “We played hard. They dug a big hole early but we kept plugging and plugging.”
Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.