NEW YORK – The Brooklyn Nets made a resolution for New Years to play better basketball after a disastrous start to the season. The Nets have done that and are on the verge of clinching a playoff berth after beating the Minnesota Timberwolves, 114-99, at Barclays Center Sunday night.
“A lot of teams with bad character and bad leadership in the locker room would have laid down a long time ago, probably by Christmas would have been making summer plans,” Nets forward Paul Pierce said. “But not this group. You have a mentally strong group full of veterans who were always staying positive and patient with each other.”
The Nets, who tied a franchise record set in 2002 with their 13th consecutive home win, can book their postseason ticket with a Knicks loss at Golden State Sunday night.
“The first part of the season was rough on us — injuries and everything that we went through,” Nets guard Deron Williams said. “It feels good to be able to turn it around.”
Pierce set the tone for the Nets, scoring 16 of his game-high 22 points in the first quarter two nights after scoring 17 in the opening stanza against Cleveland.
Forward Joe Johnson added 19 points and became the 15th active NBA player to reach 17,000 career points, joining teammates Kevin Garnett and Pierce. Johnson also scored in double figures for the ninth consecutive game.
Forward Andray Blatche had 14 points and six rebounds, forward Alan Anderson had 13 points, and forward Mason Plumlee and guard Shaun Livingston added 13 points apiece for the Nets, who scored 100-plus points for the eighth consecutive game, their longest streak since 1994.
Anderson did most of his damage down the stretch with three big 3-pointers.
“He’s a good player,” Minnesota guard Ricky Rubio said of Anderson. “I played with him in Barcelona and I knew him. I tried to give a hint to my teammates, but he can hit big shots. He killed us in the fourth quarter.”
Six different players combined to knock down 13 3-pointers for Brooklyn.
“I think we’re the most dangerous team in the NBA from 3-point,” forward Mirza Teletovic said. “We have so many shooters and it kind of opens the paint.”
The Nets (39-33) clamped down defensively in the fourth quarter, limiting a Timberwolves team that dropped 143 points on the Lakers Friday night to just 17 points in the final quarter Sunday. It was the 12th straight time during the 13-game home winning streak the Nets held an opponent under 100 points.
Guard Kevin Martin and forward Corey Brewer had 21 points apiece and center Nikola Pekovic had 13 points for the Timberwolves, who lost for the fourth time in six games.
Minnesota standout Kevin Love was held to 14 points, 12 below his season average, on just 5-of-14 shooting from the field. But the versatile forward said it had more to do with him feeling under the weather than anything the Nets did defensively.
“They did a good job, but it was really just me being exhausted,” Love said. “I couldn’t find any energy in the second half. That was really it.”
The Timberwolves (36-36) scored 10 points off seven Nets turnovers in the third quarter and took a 69-63 lead on a Brewer putback dunk with 8:07 left in the third.
But the Nets did a better job with the ball offensively and were solid defensively to inch closer to a playoff berth.
“We control our own destiny, so no matter what the Knicks do, we could care less,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said. “It’s just about us and for us to finish out the rest of the games and see where we end up after 82 games, if it’s home court or if we have to start on the road.”
NOTES: Nets F Andrei Kirilenko (sprained left ankle) is targeting a midweek return, while F Kevin Garnett (back spasms) could be back anytime between Friday’s game against the Detroit Pistons and April 9 against the Magic in Orlando, the team announced Sunday. … Nets G Deron Williams stretched his streak of consecutive games with at least one steal to 22, the longest streak in the NBA this season. … Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman said C Nikola Pekovic “seems fine” after scoring 26 points in 22 minutes in a 143-107 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday after missing six games with a sore right ankle. “The other night I thought it wasn’t until the third quarter that it looked like he was getting a little fatigued,” Adelman said before Sunday’s game. “The first half I thought he was fine.” … Adelman said there is no timetable for the return of C Ronny Turiaf, who missed his 17th game due to a bone bruise on right knee.
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