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Pierce gives Nets a scare in win

Kevin Garnett and Andray Blatche have the playoffs in their sights as the season winds down to a close.
Kevin Garnett and Andray Blatche have the playoffs in their sights as the season winds down to a close.
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No one wanted to see Paul Pierce wincing in pain and running to the sideline during the third quarter of a Nets’ win over the Orlando Magic Sunday night.

With just two games left before the postseason, Pierce asked out of the 97-88 win after Magic forward Kyle O’Quinn had raked the Nets forward across the right arm. Pierce initially aggravated the shoulder when he got tangled up with Nets forward Andrei Kirilenko, who started in place of the injured Shaun Livingston.

Pierce did not return.

Although Pierce was seen laughing on the bench in the waning seconds of the game, the Nets can ill afford to lose a vital cog this close to the postseason. The ageless veteran has endured several shoulder flareups along the way, although he was available to return to the game.

“I could have brought him back, but there was no need,” head coach Jason Kidd said. “I thought the guys out there were playing fine. There was no reason to put him in harm’s way so we finished the game without him.”

Mirza Teletovic replaced Pierce and scored a game-high 20 points. The stretch forward converted four of his seven three-point attempts. Mason Plumlee added 17 points and 11 rebounds off the bench as well.

The Nets have two games remaining in their 2013-14 regular season. The Nets will host the New York Knicks Tuesday night in the home finale and travel to Cleveland for their 82nd game.

Kidd is treading a fine line as the playoffs approach. While he wants to establish chemistry with Kevin Garnett returning to the lineup, he cannot afford to lose a big man to injury. If the seeding holds, the Nets will face the Chicago Bulls in the first round.

“It doesn’t really matter to me (if I rest in the final two games),” forward Joe Johnson said. “I’m willing to play and, like I said, to keep the chemistry going with the guys going into the postseason.”

The Nets were slated to match up with division rival Toronto in the first round, but the Knicks upended the Chicago Bulls in Madison Square Garden Sunday night. The standings could change several times before season’s end.

“I’m a basketball junkie, so I definitely pay attention (to the scores around the league),” Johnson added.

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