For the Brooklyn Nets, and most teams around the NBA, this is the climax of the regular season. The beginning of April means playoff basketball is right around the corner. With the Toronto Raptors loss Monday night to the Miami Heat, the Nets entered the Tuesday just two games out of the division lead coming into this game. Along with that, the Nets looked to set a franchise record 14 straight victories at home. It was also a chance for Brooklyn to officially clinch the playoffs for the second straight year.
They knew it wouldn't be an easy task, possibly their biggest test for the remainder of the season.
The Nets were up against James Harden and the Houston Rockets. Similar to the Nets, the Rockets have found a lot of success in 2014. With a 49-23 record, the Rockets are the fourth seed in the Western Conference. In the last matchup between the two teams, the Nets lost 114-95 with their starters combining for just 21 points.
However, Tuesday night was a different story. Behind a huge 32-point outburst from Joe Johnson, the Nets defeated the Houston Rockets 105-96. The win not only sets a franchise record for most consecutive wins at home (14), but it also officially solidifies a playoff spot for the Brooklyn Nets. Two seasons in Brooklyn, two seasons in the playoffs.
Kevin Garnett missed his 17th straight game with back spasms. Andrei Kirilenko missed his fifth straight with an ankle issue. Marcus Thornton was a game time decision, only to hear that he was out as well with back problems.
For Houston, Dwight Howard was also due to an ankle issue, along with Patrick Beverley who suffered a torn meniscus.
The first quarter got this game started on a fast note with both teams free to run as much as they pleased. One can only figure that both coaches would love to harness this energy for the playoffs.
Brooklyn was on the better end of the first 12 minutes as they owned a 29-24 lead. The Nets offense was in the hands of Joe Johnson, who scored 11 points on 5-8 shooting. The Nets as a team shot 59% from the field, but just 16.7% from three. As expected, James Harden also jumped out to an aggressive start. He finished the quarter with 12 points on 3-4 shooting.
It wasn't the ideal start to the second quarter for the Nets and their second unit. The Rockets were pushing the ball at a pace the Nets struggled to keep up with, as they owned a 21-12 advantage through the first seven minutes of the quarter.
When the starters returned to the game, the Nets went on a quick 11-0 run, finishing the last few minutes of the half with a 13-6 advantage.
James Harden was limited to just three points in the second quarter, but still had 15 on the half. He was 8-8 at the free throw line. Omer Asik had only four points but grabbed 12 first half rebounds.
For Brooklyn, Joe Johnson led all scorers with 17 points on 7-12 shooting. Deron Williams & Shaun Livingston both had 10 points apiece. As a team, they finished 52% from the field, but just 1-11 from three-point range. Along with the hot shooting, their scrappy identity was back into play tonight. They grabbed eight first-half steals, helping cause 10 Houston turnovers.
Score at the half: Nets 54, Rockets 51.
Quick first half reminder: Lately, the Nets bench has been very solid. With a few key players out, the Rockets bench took advantage--- they outscored the Nets bench 23-6.
The third quarter was another offensive outburst from both teams. In the late stages of the quarter, following a 15-5 run, the Nets found an 11 point lead --- their biggest of the night. Before the Nets could blink, the Rockets answered with an 8-0 run. What looked to be a game in the Nets' hand, suddenly slipped out and was just a four point Brooklyn lead headed into the fourth.
The score was 83-79, in the Nets favor.
Each team had 32 rebounds. For the Rockets, Omer Asik had 17 of them.
James Harden wasn't hurting the Nets so much on the outside, but more at the free throw line. He was going into the fourth quarter having gone to the line 16 times! He nailed all 16 free throws, contributing to his 26 points.
Joe Johnson also continued his hot shooting. He scored 13 third quarter points and led all scorers with 30 points in just 29 minutes of play.
Despite Joe Johnson & Deron Williams sitting on the bench, the Nets second unit got off to a hot start and brought the lead back up to double digits.
With 3:45 remaining, the score was 97-87, when the Nets starters finally checked back into the game. The Rockets never really got close. After an and-one from Mason Plumlee which led to a 12 point Nets lead with 1:33 remaining, the Nets were on their way to yet another victory at the Barlays Center.
The Nets outscored Houston 22-17 in the fourth quarter, displaying their offensive dominance all game. Along with that, James Harden was held to zero points in the third quarter. Team defense is winning the Nets these games.
Final score: Nets 105, Rockets 96.
Joe Johnson finished with 32 points on 13-21 shooting. Shaun Livingston chipped in 17 points, while Deron Williams and Mason Plumlee combined for 23 points. Andray Blatche scored 13 off the bench, along with Mirza Teletovic contributing 10. Jorge Gutierrez & Alan Anderson contributed some solid defense as well.
For Houston, James Harden was held scoreless in the fourth quarter. He finished with 26 points, 16 of them coming at the free throw line. Chandler Parsons & Jeremy Lin scored 17 apiece. In the midst of all that, Omer Asik recorded 12 points and 23 rebounds, an incredible night for the center filling in for Dwight Howard.
The win officially clinches the Nets a spot in the playoffs for the second straight year. Along with that, they won a 14th consecutive home game, which sets a franchise record.
Another incredible night in Brooklyn. Two years in Brooklyn, two years in the playoffs.
The Nets will travel a short trip to Manhattan Wednesday, where they face off against Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks.
For more on the Houston Rockets, check them out at The Dream Shake.
- Rockets at Nets Boxscore - NBA.com
- Game Thread: Brooklyn Nets vs. Houston Rockets, 8:00 PM - NetsDaily
- 2nd Half Game Thread: Rockets at Nets - NetsDaily
- Rockets vs. Nets (Video) - NBA.com
- Spin Cycle by Teletovic (Video) - NBA.com
- Plumlee to Livingston (Video) - NBA.com
- Nightly Notable: Joe Johnson (Video) - NBA.com
- Postgame: Joe Johnson (Video) - David Aldridge - TNT on NBA.com
- Steal of the Night: Deron Williams (Video) - NBA.com
- Best of Inside: Nets on Fire (Video) - TNT on NBA.com
- The Beat: The Nets (Video) - TNT on NBA.com
- HIGHLIGHT: Mirza Teletovic Spins and Slams - The Brooklyn Game
- Nets top Rockets, 105-96, clinch playoff berth - AP
- Nets 105, Rockets 96 - Reuters
- Nets Prepping For Playoffs (Video) - ESPN New York
- Rapid Reaction: Nets 105, Rockets 96 - Mike Mazzeo - ESPN New York
- Starting Five: Is Johnson a quiet scorer? - Mike Mazzeo - ESPN New York
- Brooklyn Nets clinch playoff berth, most consecutive home wins - Ohm Youngmisuk - ESPN New York
- Once Stumbling, Nets Are Surging Into Playoffs - Andrew Keh - New York Times
- Nets’ Surge Earns Jason Kidd a Second Award - Andrew Keh - New York Times
- Nets clinch playoffs with 105-96 defeat of Rockets - Tim Bontemps - New York Post
- Nets clinch playoff spot as Joe Johnson goes off for 32 points in win over Rockets - Stefan Bondy - New York Daily News
- Nets clinch playoff spot with 105-96 win over Rockets - Andy Vasquez - The Record
- Nets notes: Kidd coach of the month - Andy Vasquez - The Record
- Nets faced long, shorthanded route to playoffs - Rod Boone - Newsday
- Rockets' James Harden believes Nets will be a force in playoffs - Rod Boone - Newsday
- Nets clinch playoffs berth by beating Rockets for first time in eight years - Rod Boone - Newsday
- Nets Clinch Playoff Berth, But Where is Kevin Garnett? - Alex Raskin - Wall Street Journal
- Next Stop, Playoffs: Nets 105, Rockets 96 (GAME GRADES) - Devin Kharpertian - The Brooklyn Game
- Nets clinch playoff spot with win over Rockets - Larry Fleisher - Metro
- Final Score: Nets 105 Rockets 96 - Brian Erni - SNY Nets
- Nets embody Kidd in turnaround - Gregory Hrinya - Examiner
- Ultimate Rockets " Minus 3 starters, frigid Rockets fall to Nets - Jonathan Feigen - Houston Chronicle