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December 28, 2013BROOKLYN—Maybe the Brooklyn Nets found an answer Friday night. Or maybe they just found the road kill known as the Milwaukee Bucks.
At this point, all the Nets care about is that they found a win in Barclays Center.
They found it with a new starting lineup, their 13th different starting lineup of the season. Coach Jason Kidd inserted reserve point guard Shaun Livingston into the starting lineup alongside starting point guard Deron Williams.
Paul Pierce, who had been coming off the bench, returned to the starting lineup.
The result was a 104-93 win over the hapless Milwaukee Bucks. The Nets (10-19) jumped out to a 31-18 lead and never looked back.
“The tone was set early,’’ said Kidd. “The ball was moving. Guys were moving. It helped us get a win.’’
The win snapped a four-game losing streak. Had the Nets not dispatched the Bucks (6-23), losers of 7-of-8 coming in, they would have embarked on the most demanding three-game road swing of the season – at Indiana Saturday night, at San Antonio on New Year’s Eve and at Oklahoma City.
“We needed a win, whether it was here or on the road,’’ said guard Jason Terry. “Right now every game is critical.’’
The Nets had hit the critical mass point on Wednesday afternoon, following a 95-78 loss to the Chicago Bulls. Kidd had challenged the team after a 103-86 loss to the Pacers on Monday, saying the team was ‘getting really close to just accepting losing.’’
Those words didn’t have the desired effect as evidenced by the Christmas Day loss to Chicago, a game that ended with fans in Barclays Center booing the home team.
So Kidd went with a smaller, quicker lineup, using two point guards to make one point. Livingston finished with 20 points and six assists. Williams had nine points and five assists.
“It’s good to have two ball handlers, two floor leaders out there,’’ said Livingston. “It’s not really hard to play with Deron. It’s basketball. I trust my IQ. Jason trusts my IQ.’’
Pierce, a small forward who is the power forward on defense in this lineup, had 13 points and four rebounds. Kevin Garnett, a power forward playing center, had 10 points and five rebounds in 18 minutes.
It worked against Milwaukee but the Pacers have a legit center in Roy Hibbert and a veteran power forward in David West. That reality wasn’t lost in Pierce.
“It’s a combination coach wanted to get a look at,’’ said Pierce. “I thought it was a good combination. They both played really well off each other. We went small, tried to spread the court and use our shooting and our driving. And it worked.
“We were able to get to 100 points. We haven’t done that in a few games. I don’t know what we’ll do next game but it worked tonight.’’
The Nets will know soon enough if this was a one-night fix against one of the worst teams in the league or the spark that has been missing.
“Jason changed the lineup and he put a lineup out there that was very explosive,’’ said Terry. “They got off to an outstanding start.’’
As the Nets learned this past Monday, getting out to a strong start against the Pacers means little. Indiana just keeps grinding. They broke the Nets in the third quarter, outscoring them, 30-19.
The 6-7 Livingston can cause matchup problems against most point guards. Williams, with his speed, strength, size and quickness, can cause problems at the two guard.
Of course, that leaves Livingston to guard the small, quick guard that has hurt the Nets all season. And, unless the Nets switch on defense, leaves Williams vulnerable to being posted up.
The Nets might have found an answer in their first win and first home win since the Dec. 16th blowout of the Philadelphia 76ers. The Nets seemingly turned the corner that night. Not so.
Maybe they can turn it with two point guards.
NOTES: Mirza Teletovic came off the bench on fire (19 points on 5-of-9 shooting on 3’s). The win marked the first time that former Boston Celtics, Garnett, Pierce and Terry scored in double figures since being acquired by the Nets in the off season.
Backup center Andray Blatche did not play against Milwaukee and will miss the three-game road trip for personal reasons. Andrei Kirilenko shows no signs of making a full recovery from back spasms and will not make the trip. Kirilenko hasn’t played since Nov.8.