NEW YORK (AP) — They have gone from disappointment to dominant, a team that was booed on its home floor and now rarely loses there.
And pretty soon, the Brooklyn Nets will also be a playoff team.
Pierce scored 22 points after another sensational start, and the Nets moved to the brink of a postseason spot by beating the Minnesota Timberwolves 114-99 on Sunday for their franchise record-tying 13th straight home victory.
“First part of the season was rough on us with injuries and everything that we went through, and it feels good,” guard Deron Williams said. “It feels good to be able to turn it around.”
Pierce scored 16 in the first quarter, two nights after putting up 17 in the period, and didn’t miss a shot in either. He couldn’t keep it going after asking for a rest so he would stay fresh to defend Kevin Love, but the Nets had to plenty more to pull away.
Joe Johnson added 19 points for the Nets, who were 10-21 when they reached the new year but would clinch a playoff spot if the New York Knicks lost to Golden State later Sunday.
A postseason berth was viewed as a sure thing when the Nets acquired Pierce and Kevin Garnett while assembling a team that would cost more than $180 million, but they struggled early and then lost leading scorer Brook Lopez to a season-ending foot injury.
“I think a lot of teams with bad character, bad leadership in the locker room would’ve laid down a long time ago. Probably by Christmas would’ve been making summer plans,” Pierce said. “But not this group.”
Andray Blatche had 14 points and three players finished with 13 for the Nets.
Brooklyn equaled the longest home winning streak in the NBA this season and the best in the history of the franchise, done twice in 2002 when the Nets were still based in New Jersey. They have won 20 of their last 22 games at Barclays Center.
Corey Brewer and Kevin Martin each scored 21 for the Timberwolves, who had won two in row and were coming off the highest-scoring game in the NBA this season, when they scored a franchise-record 143 points in a rout of the Lakers on Friday. But they had only 17 in the fourth quarter of this one as Brooklyn surged to the finish.
Love finished with just 14 points and nine rebounds for the Wolves, shooting 5-of-14 and saying afterward he felt “exhausted” and was perhaps getting sick.
“I couldn’t find any energy in the second half and that was really it,” Love said.
The Nets led by one early in the fourth quarter, but got three 3-pointers from Alan Anderson in a 13-4 spurt that gave them a 98-88 lead with 6:51 remaining, and Pierce later added a 3 to make it a 13-point cushion.
Brooklyn finished off a 12-4 March, matching the team record for victories in the month set in 2006 and hopes to have Kevin Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko back from injuries by the end of the upcoming week.
Pierce, who scored 17 points in the first quarter Friday, had 16 points on 6-of-6 shooting by the time he checked out after 10 minutes to open this one. He is 10 for 10 from the field, 8 or 8 on 3-pointers, in 17 minutes over the last two first quarters, and this is the first time in his career that he’s scored at least 16 in consecutive first quarters.
The Nets led 30-27 after one and opened a 49-36 lead on Mirza Teletovic’s 3-pointer with 6:11 remaining in the second quarter. Minnesota whittled that down to 59-54 by the break.
The Wolves charged out of the locker room with a 15-4 run to open a 69-63 lead a little under 4 minutes into the third quarter. But the Nets, who had rarely trailed in the second half during their streak, quickly regrouped behind Johnson and Shaun Livingston to move back in front and take an 85-82 lead to the fourth.
NOTES: The Nets said before the game that Garnett, who has missed 16 straight games with back spasms, is hoping to play next weekend or during their trip to Florida on April 8 and 9. Kirilenko is targeting a mid-week return from a sprained left ankle. … Johnson became the 15th active player with 17,000 career points. Pierce and Garnett have already done it. … Oklahoma City also had 13 straight home wins from Nov. 3-Dec. 19.
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