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Nets “Ten”-talize Bobcats at Barclays

Extend season-high home winning streak to 10

March 20, 2014 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Protect home!

First-year Nets head coach Jason Kidd knows the importance of establishing home-court advantage, be it in the regular season or the upcoming playoffs.

“We have to find a way to protect home,” he insisted time and time again as the Nets slumped toward the Eastern Conference cellar during the season’s first two months.

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To his players’ credit, Kidd’s oft-repeated message has finally hit home, and in a big way.

Brooklyn continued its longest home winning streak of the season Wednesday night in front of 17,222 fans at Downtown’s Barclays Center, holding on for a 104-99 victory over the visiting Charlotte Bobcats.

The Nets (35-31) have won 10 in a row on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, boast a 17-2 mark here since the start of the New Year and are now in position to fight for home-court advantage in the opening round of next month’s playoffs.

“We’re trying to turn this place into a hard place to play come playoffs,” said Shaun Livingston after scoring 17 points in the Nets’ latest home triumph.

With the win, Brooklyn moved within 3 ½ games of first-place and third-seeded Toronto in the hunt for the Atlantic Division crown, and is now only two games back of playoff nemesis and No. 4 seed Chicago in the chase for at least one home series in the postseason.

Deron Williams scored a game-high 25 points and handed out eight assists, hitting a critical 18-footer in the closing moments to end any hopes of a Bobcats comeback.

”Deron took control of the game and made plays on both ends,” said Kidd after watching Williams spearhead Brooklyn’s offensive attack for the second straight game. ”He’s making all the right basketball plays and not settling.”

Joe Johnson added 20 points, Andray Blatche had 13 and Marcus Thornton contributed 11 as the Nets closed within two victories of their longest home winning streak since the 2005-06 campaign, when Kidd helped guide New Jersey to 12 consecutive home wins.

Brooklyn hasn’t dropped a home contest since Jan. 31 against Oklahoma City, and is thriving on its herringbone-designed hardwood at just the right time.

“We’re definitely confident at home,” Williams said. “There’s definitely some confidence there, and we want to keep it going.”

The Nets will host Boston on Friday night, looking to stretch the streak to 11 and pay the Celtics back for a 91-84 defeat in Boston on March 7.

Williams, who spent most of the first half of the season struggling through nagging ankle issues, continued his post All-Star break liftoff by hitting 8-of-15 shots, grabbing three rebounds, knocking down all six of his free throws and picking up a steal.

“I just happened to be a big part of [the win], but it could have been any of us,” he noted humbly, just two nights after torching the Suns for 28 points in a 108-95 victory at Barclays.

“That’s the Deron I’m used to seeing,” added Blatche, who helped the Nets to a rare rebounding advantage, 39-36, with four caroms.

Rookie center Mason Plumlee, the sixth Net in double figures Wednesday night with 11 points to go with seven rebounds in just under 19 minutes, also chimed in on the D-Will factor.

”He has been clutch the last month or so,” Plumlee said. ”He’s made a lot of big plays in some of these wins. He has more bounce to his step.”

Williams’ renewed bounce, coupled with the Nets’ recent home dominance, could make Brooklyn an Eastern Conference dark horse come playoff time, with Miami and Indiana already well-established as the front-runners in the race to the NBA Finals.

But looking ahead isn’t what got the Nets out of a 10-21 hole, including an ugly 6-9 start here in Brooklyn.

They must remain focused on the task at hand.

And come Friday night against Boston, Kidd’s message will be clear and simple: protect home.

Nothing But Net: Brooklyn is 3 ½ games ahead of seventh-place Charlotte in the East and has won nine of its last 10 meetings with the Bobcats. “If we’re going to turn the ball over fifteen times, it’s going to be hard for us to beat anybody,” Charlotte coach Steve Clifford lamented. “Brooklyn is good at forcing turnovers, but we can’t have the unforced ones that we had in the fourth quarter.” … After being listed as a game-time decision with a bruised toe, F Andrei Kirilenko suited up and played 12 minutes off the bench Wednesday night. … F-C Kevin Garnett sat out his 10th straight game with back spasms and isn’t expected to be in the lineup when the Nets host the Celtics on Friday. The future Hall of Famer could see his first action in nearly three weeks Sunday at Dallas or Monday in New Orleans. Brooklyn has gone 8-2 in his absence. … F Mirza Teletovic had a rough night against the Bobcats, going 0-for-5 from the field after sitting out Monday’s win over Phoenix.

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