Pierce, KG watch from bench as Nets comeback falls short

Pierce, KG watch from bench as Nets comeback falls short
May 1, 2014, 10:45 am

BOSTON — It was a sight you would never see in Boston: Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce on the bench during a close, down-to-the-wire playoff game.

But Brooklyn ain't Boston, especially when it comes to how the two future Hall of Famers have been used at the end of games.

In Game 5 with Toronto on Wednesday night, easily the most important game of the season for the Nets, Pierce and Garnett spent the fourth quarter doing what you and I did at home - watching the Nets come up short, 115-113.

It was the first time in this series that they didn't play at all in the fourth quarter.

And while the reasons might be just, it only strengthens the belief held by many that the Celtics came out ahead - way ahead - in the blockbuster deal they agreed to with the Nets this past summer.

Just a recap of the franchise-changing deal:

The Nets traded three first-round picks, along with a mix of talent just to make the numbers work, to the Celtics for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.

The Celtics made the deal for the draft picks and the $10 million trade exception it generated.

The Nets made the trade to put them over the top and provide some late-game, seal-the-deal veterans with a championship pedigree.

But you wouldn't know that by the roles the future Hall of Famers played in the game's most critical moments.

"It is what it is," Garnett told reporters after the loss gave the Raptors a 3-2 series edge. "That group in there was going. They had the momentum."

Brooklyn was getting run out Air Canada Centre until its second unit went on a blistering run to wipe out a 22-point deficit - all coming about with Garnett and Pierce on the bench.

But Pierce and KG weren't brought in to lead comebacks.

They're in Brooklyn to be closers.

And Wednesday, in that moment when the Nets needed someone to cement one of the franchise's greatest playoff rallies, two of their best options were on the bench.

But that's part of the problem.

Pierce and Garnett, for all the battles they have fought and won over the years, are no longer seen as closers in this league.

In this series, Garnett's high in minutes played in the fourth quarter is 6:25 and that came way back in Game 1.

Pierce isn't much better having logged a high of 6:37 in the fourth quarter of Brooklyn's Game 4 loss.

Rookie coach Jason Kidd gave a legit explanation for leaving both on the bench in Game 5.

"The guys on the floor were fighting," Kidd told reporters. "They got us back in the game. I asked were they tired and those guys weren't tired, so they wanted to continue to keep playing. When you have guys playing the way they did and fighting, you've got to leave those guys out there."

But Kidd knows as well as anyone that riding the hot hand or hands, doesn't always hold up under the intense heat of late-game pressure.

No disrespect to Alan Anderson who had a huge 4-point play in the fourth, but you can't help but wonder how differently the final couple of minutes would have played out if Paul Pierce was on the floor instead.

Like Garnett and Kidd, Pierce said all the right things after the loss as well.

"I was on the sidelines cheering on my teammates," Pierce told reporters. "They did a really good job getting us back in the game and giving ourselves a chance. That was the unit that was out there. They deserved to be out there to give us a shot at winning it. While we are on the sideline, we have full confidence in them."

It all sounds good, but it reminds us all why the Celtics were so willing to swing the deal in the first place.

As much as Garnett and Pierce will be forever loved in these parts, their days of greatness are fewer and farther between now.

The Celtics knew this when they made the trade, and the Nets did so as well.

But Brooklyn was OK with it because Pierce and Garnett were not being counted on to carry heavy loads, just the important ones come playoff time.

At least, that's what we were led to believe.