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Banged up Nets handle Kings, 104-89

As Marcus Thornton burns his old team, Paul Pierce and Andrei Kirilenko suffer injuries.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport

Paul Pierce left tonight's game at the Barclays Center with a shoulder injury almost before it started.  Andrei Kirilenko missed the second half with a sprained ankle.  Kevin Garnett missed his fifth straight with a balky back.  And, of course, Brook Lopez hasn't been part of the 2013-14 season for a long time.

But it was a player missing from the Kings roster that made the most difference in the game.

Marcus Thornton exploded in the 4th, making 5 of the Nets' first 6 baskets in the quarter as his new team buried the one from whence he came.

"Playing your old team, you always get up for it.", said Thornton. "I saw a couple of shots go down and my teammates kept feeding me the ball and I just tried to provide for them."

He also explained his theory of the game, "If I'm open, I'm shooting."

Thornton wound up with 27 points on 11-15 shooting and went 5-8 from beyond the arc.

Before Thornton's breakout, it was Joe Johnson who paced the Nets, scoring 18 points on 7-12 from the floor.  Deron Williams added a steady 10/7/4 line.

For the Kings, DeMarcus Cousins took advantage of the perpetually undersized Nets' frontcourt, scoring an easy 28 points and collecting 20 rebounds.

The Nets made up for their lack of an inside presence as they usually do - with their now trademark aggressive defense.  They forced 24 Kings turnovers and that - along with shooting 53% to the Kings' 44% (including 5-23 from long range) - was more than enough to overcome a startling 26 rebound deficit.

Brooklyn came out fast and erased any speculation that they would overlook the struggling Kings in anticipation of tomorrow night's big matchup against the division-leading Toronto Raptors.  The Kings made some runs - even tying the game in the 3rd quarter - before Thornton and the Nets flipped the switch and ran away.

With the win, The Nets pulled to within 4 games of the Raptors.  Who will be on the floor tomorrow night remains to be seen, but the blueprint will undoubtedly be the same - force turnovers, limit the opponents' ball movement, defend the perimeter.  It seems the Nets have developed something they haven't had for a while - an identity.