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Nets can catch Raptors with solid week

Paul Pierce and the Nets have their sights set on the top-seeded Toronto Raptors.
Paul Pierce and the Nets have their sights set on the top-seeded Toronto Raptors.USA Today Sports

The Nets took a step forward in their pursuit of the Atlantic Division Sunday night.

With the Toronto Raptors holding serve against the Orlando Magic, the Nets surged past the oversized Minnesota Timberwolves, 114-99. The Raptors, however, will play consecutive games against the Miami Heat, Houston Rockets, and Indiana Pacers.

While the Nets welcome the Rockets on Tuesday night in a nationally-televised game, the Raptors will have their hands full with the two other match-ups. Meanwhile, the Nets get back-to-back games against the struggling New York Knicks and Detroit Pistons.

The Raptors still control their own destiny, but the Nets have a puncher’s chance. They stole what appeared to be a toss-up game against the T’Wolves.

“(It would be) definitely great to have home court advantage,” point guard Deron Williams said. “It’s so close right now, you don’t know. We just have to try to keep winning, keep winning at home and hopefully we can get a good enough seed to get a home court advantage in the first round.”

Against Minnesota, Paul Pierce erupted again in the first quarter and finished with 22 points. Six Nets scored in double figures, with Williams being the only starter to finish under 10 points.

The Nets won the game in the paint, limiting big men Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic to a combined 27 points. Earlier in the season, the Nets struggled with big lineups often seen in the Indiana Pacers and Pistons. The Nets found the holes in the defense and racked up 56 points in the paint.

They also received some good news regarding a few injured players. Kevin Garnett, who missed his 16th straight game with a bad back, expects to return sometime in the second week of April. Meanwhile, Andrei Kirilenko should rejoin the Nets in the middle of the week.

The Nets would want Garnett to reintegrate himself back into the offense’s flow after missing so many games. With Garnett sidelined, the Nets have grown by leaps and bounds on the offensive end. The Nets can afford to tighten up their defense heading into the postseason, though.

“You don’t have to ask me anything,” head coach Jason Kidd said. “We’ll see when (Kevin) comes back. He just needs to put on his uniform, that’s it. He can just play, it’s basketball. He’s done it his whole life, it doesn’t change.”

During the T’Wolves game, Marcus Thornton left the game with a sore back and Andray Blatche appeared to be favoring his side. Blatche remained in the game, though. With Thornton ailing, Alan Anderson played 32 minutes and tallied 13 points and five rebounds.

Both Pierce and Williams battled foul trouble throughout the game.