Pierce, KG have big hand in Nets moving on

Pierce, KG have big hand in Nets moving on
May 4, 2014, 5:45 pm
Share This Post

It was a fitting image to see the Brooklyn Nets advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals to face Miami with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce literally having a big hand in it happening.

Garnett stripping the ball briefly out of the mitts of Toronto's Kyle Lowry threw the chubby, but slithery, point guard off stride, just enough to where by the time he regrouped and had control of the ball, Pierce simply had to get a hand up, jump a couple inches off the ground for the block and with it, preserve a 104-103 Game 7 win for the Nets on Sunday.

It's easy to look at the box score and decide that Joe Johnson was the star after going off for "just" 26 points (watching the game it felt as though he had way more than that).

And others will point to the lift Brooklyn got off the bench from Marcus Thornton (17 points) and Andre Blatche (nine points, seven rebounds and a pre-game guarantee of victory).

But Game 7 was won the same way so many games in Boston had been won in recent years.

Pierce.

Garnett.

Delivering the goods when their team needed them most.

Regardless of how much their skills have declined in recent years, Pierce and Garnett have an understanding for the game that can only come with experience the ebbs and flows of being an NBA player.

Pierce was the 10th pick in the 1998 NBA draft despite being projected as a top-5 selection. He went on to have a Hall of Fame-worthy career with the Boston Celtics before being shipped out this past summer to Brooklyn along with Garnett.

Garnett came into league straight out high school and with that came many questions about maturity, how long would it take for him to adapt (if at all) and of course, whether that lithe frame of his would ever fill out.

After all these years Garnett is still on the lean side, but in time he has grown into one of the game's greatest players of this generation and like Pierce, he too will one day have his name among the best to ever play in Springfield, Mass.

But the Nets didn't give up a king's ransom (three unprotected first-round picks, a $10 million trade exception and a slew of players thrown in to make the numbers work) just to get to the playoffs.

They gave up all those assets for this team to advance through the playoffs and position themselves to win an NBA title.

The idea seemed far-fetched if you go back to November or December. Still, as the season progressed, the Nets seemed to only get stronger both physically and mentally as they overcome one hurdle of adversity after another.

Brooklyn's first round series was kind of like their season, one filled with ups and downs and a slew of momentum swings.

Players know about momentum.

But Pierce and Garnett?

They understand the moment.

And for them, for that Brooklyn franchise, the moment of validation was Sunday, Game 7, at Toronto.

For all the struggles Brooklyn has endured this season, from the early losses to injuries, to lead assistant Lawrence Frank being exiled to basically pushing papers to questions about Jason Kidd's competence as a head coach, the Nets have withstood all the distractions, critics and naysayers without ever losing sight of their goal which is still to be the last team standing.

And while they surely won't be favored to beat the Heat, they will be facing a Miami team that has not beaten them all season, preseason included.

While we all know that regular-season success doesn't necessarily translate to being a postseason power over an opponent, the Nets come into this series with a level of confidence that few teams in the postseason have against the two-time NBA champions.

Still, the wild card in this series as was the case against Toronto, will be Pierce and Garnett.

It's clear that the role Kidd has for them is different than what they have had in the past.

Pierce has made a ton of money being a go-to guy, but that role belongs to Johnson.

And while Garnett remains a defensive pest around the rim, Andray Blatche has been solid in terms of rebounding and taking charges while Mason Plumlee (in the regular season at least) was a surprisingly strong fill-in for Garnett.

That means nothing now.

It's the playoffs where every game, every possession truly matters.

And every game will have its share of ups and downs, with momentum constantly swaying back and forth.

Players understand momentum.

Fortunately for Brooklyn, they have a pair of battle-tested, championship-bling having veterans who understand the moment where reputations are made and careers are defined.

That moment ... is now!