Nets 106, Wizards 101
On a night when the four of the Brooklyn Nets' five starters rested, a meaningless April game provided ample opportunity for a group of players that will be mostly watching from the bench when the playoffs tip off.
Andray Blatche led a bevy of Brooklyn reserves, whose most playing time has come in blowout games, with 20 points and 11 rebounds and the Nets erased an early 17-point deficit to beat the Washington Wizards 106-101 on Monday night.
Before the game, Nets interim head P.J. Carlesimo read off a sheet that resembled a football injury report. However, he was proud of the way they managed to fight back.
''They fell in a hole early and they just kept plugging and plugging,'' he said. ''They did a really good job. At times, our defense was lousy but we also got some big stops in the fourth quarter. They were working. We had a lot of individuals play hard. It was really nice to see.''
Carlesimo used the game to gauge how forward Gerald Wallace would react after missing the last two games due to a heel injury that was listed as a lower left leg contusion by the teams.
''I thought he really looked good,'' Carlesimo said. ''He's upset with Timmy (trainer) and I that he didn't play more, but the whole point was to get him out and get a little cardio work and make sure his foot was all right. We were pleased. Hopefully if he comes out of it well tomorrow, we can play him more on Wednesday.''
Carlesimo was also pleased with the way Kris Humphries played in 34 minutes and is expecting a significant contribution from him once the playoffs start. Humphries, who was the team's original starting power forward at the beginning of the season before falling out of the rotation, added 20 points and nine boards for Brooklyn.
''We're not going to be successful in the playoffs unless we get the Kris Humphries that we know,'' Carlesimo said. ''It was a big step for him. The more time we can get him in and the more success he has, the better it's going to be.''
Mirza Teletovic added 14 points and MarShon Brooks chipped in 12 for the Nets, who will host Detroit on Wednesday night before they open up at home in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
What appeared as though was going to turn into a lopsided win for Washington turned into a victory for the Nets, spearheaded in the second half by the seldom used Brooklyn rookie trio of Teletovic, Tyshawn Taylor and Toko Shengelia, who was the 54th overall pick of last year's NBA draft and was then acquired that same night from the Philadelphia 76ers.
Shengelia, who has played 67 minutes all season, saw 25 minutes. After averaging 1.1 points and 0.7 rebounds and 3:42 minutes in 18 games, Shengelia finished with 11 points and 13 rebounds. Taylor scored 11 of his 14 in the fourth quarter.
John Wall led Washington with 18 points and 12 assists, while Trevor Booker added 16 points and 13 rebounds for the Wizards, who lost for the fifth straight time.
Washington shot 63.2 percent from the field (24 of 38) in the first half, but the Nets defense held them to just 43.6 percent (17 of 39) in the second half, including 8 of 21 in the third quarter.
Wizards head coach Randy Whitman was disappointed with the way his team played in the final quarter and felt like the team had quit.
''In that fourth quarter, we just came out to play 12 minutes,'' Whitman said. ''We just wanted to get the 12 minutes over with. We lost our pride in defending, which is really discouraging considering the way we've shown we can defend. ... I don't care if this is the second to last game or not, you've got to have a little bit of pride to play defense in the fourth quarter to win a game. Twelve minutes to go, `Let's just get these 12 minutes over with.'
''That's what it looked like to me.''
Brooklyn trailed for pretty much all of the game before finally taking a 95-94 lead on Shengelia's layup with 4:57 left in the fourth. Booker's hook shot with 4:37 remaining gave the Wizards a 96-95 lead. Shengelia later blocked Wall's layup attempt. The Wizards then failed to inbound the ball and Teletovic nailed a 3-pointer to make it 98-96 for the Nets with 3:19 left. Booker then tipped in a missed jumper by Wall that evened it up, 98-98, but Teletovic then hit a 3-pointer that gave the Nets a 101-98 lead with 2:33 left.
After Cartier Martin's 3-pointer made it 101-101 with 1:43 left, Blatche's layup gave Brooklyn the lead for good. Martin tried to tie it with another 3-pointer but missed and Taylor followed up with a 3-pointer of his own to make it 106-101 with 22 seconds left.
Nets starters Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Reggie Evans and Joe Johnson all played cheerleading roles on the bench and were joined by Keith Bogans and Jerry Stackhouse.
Brooklyn will play the Chicago Bulls or Atlanta Hawks in the first round. The Hawks have a half-game lead over the Bulls with two games remaining. If the Hawks go 1-1 and the Bulls win their game against Washington on Wednesday night, the Nets will face the Bulls.
Notes: Brooklyn's win over the Wizards clinched the season series (3-1). ... The 48 wins for the Nets are their most since recording 49 during the 2005-06 season.