NEW YORK — Wednesday night proved to be retro night for Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce as his team earned its fourth win in five games.
Pierce did not attempt an overwhelming amount of shots during the Nets’ 105-89 win over the Charlotte Bobcats, but he was efficient. He scored 25 points on 9-of-11 shooting, exhibiting a style of play that gained him the reputation as an elite player with the Boston Celtics for years.
“I’ve been a product of great ball movement we’ve been having,” Pierce said. “We’re taking advantage of the opportunity when we make that extra pass. The ball is going to find the open man when that happens.”
The Nets (24-26) improved to 10-2 at home in 2014 and 14-5 overall since Jan. 1. They play the Bulls in Chicago on Thursday in their final game before the All-Star break.
“This is a chance for us to get better,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said. “A veteran ballclub understands that the games right before break are important. And our guys handled tonight well.”
The Nets opened the second half with a 10-0 run, and they outscored the Bobcats 35-19 in the third quarter to pull away. Pierce scored 14 in the quarter as Charlotte finally faded after being unfazed by prior Brooklyn runs.
“Ball movement was key,” Kidd said. “Everybody was touching it. It all started on the defensive end, getting stops and making a play for their teammates.”
While Pierce played primary scorer, Brooklyn forwards Kevin Garnett and Andray Blatche provided secondary options. They scored 10 and 13 points, respectively, to help carry an offense whose key players struggled for a majority of the evening.
“The key is to gather some momentum going into the All-Star break,” Pierce said. “Once you get past the All-Star break, it’s a stretch run. We have 31 games left, and there is going to be a lot of positioning going on.”
Nets All-Star guard Joe Johnson started the game 0-for-6 from the field, but he made two open 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and finished with eight points.
Coming into Wednesday night, Bobcats center Al Jefferson averaged 29 points per game and recorded 30 points in five of his past seven outings. He was held to just 12 points by Brooklyn.
“The guys executed the game plan,” Kidd said. “We kind of double-teamed him a little bit early to not let him get a rhythm. Al has been playing at a high level, and for him to have 12 points is a great job by our guys.”
Bobcats guard Kemba Walker was a lone bright spot, scoring 16 points and adding three assists. Forward Josh McRoberts scored 13 points, but Charlotte’s third-leading scorer on the season, guard Gerald Henderson, was held to seven points.
“The starting group came out in the third quarter and we just had nothing,” Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said. “No energy. No focus. No concentration. Brooklyn’s lead went from six to 15 quickly.”
For every Nets action, there was an equal and opposite Bobcats reaction up until the end of the second quarter as a see-saw of runs dictated the first half.
Pierce and Blatche had a nine points apiece in the first quarter, but Jefferson had 11 for the Bobcats. Brooklyn led as many as nine in the quarter, but Charlotte was quick with a reply.
The Nets used an 8-0 run to start the second quarter to re-open its lead, but with both offenses sputtering, the Bobcats found a way to slow the game down and climb back again by going on a 7-0 run.
“The bottom line is we have to play better in these games,” Clifford said. “We weren’t great in the first half, but we were right there at halftime.”
A 10-2 stretch put the Nets back up nine as they took a 50-44 lead into halftime. After starting the game shooting 10 of 17, the Nets shot just 10 of 26 for the rest of the half.
“There’s never any panic, and you can see that in their play,” Kidd said. “The guys are playing at a high level.”
Brooklyn ended the night shooting 50 percent from the field, while Charlotte shot 41.4 percent.
NOTES: The Nets and Bobcats are currently neighbors in the Eastern Conference standings. Brooklyn is in seventh, and Charlotte sits in eighth. … Bobcats C Al Jefferson is averaging a double-double this season, 20.3 points per game and 10.5 rebounds per game. … The Bobcats are off until after the All-Star break. They resume play Tuesday in Detroit against the Pistons.
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