". . . We just kept playing, kept playing, kept playing, and then it started to click for us."
Brooklyn (42-34) had a commanding, 21-point lead with 8 minutes, 28 seconds left in the third quarter. Chipping away, the Sixers (17-60) pulled within 12 points heading into the fourth quarter.
Michael Carter-Williams' foul shot with 1:05 remaining pulled the Sixers within one point, 96-95. But Nets reserve forward Mirza Teletovic responded with a three-pointer on the ensuing possession. Teletovic came back and blocked a Carter-Williams jump shot nine seconds later.
The Sixers had another chance after Hollis Thompson's second three-pointer on consecutive possessions closed the gap to two points, 103-101, with 11.5 seconds left. But Brooklyn reserve guard Marcus Thornton iced the game with a pair of foul shots with 7.3 seconds left. The Sixers turned the ball over on their final possession.
Shooting guard Shaun Livingston was the only Brooklyn starter on the floor for the entire fourth quarter. Point guard Deron Williams played the final 5:48, while the other starters - Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Joe Johnson - sat out the fourth quarter.
"Why they opted to do it, I don't know," Sixers coach Brett Brown said of the Nets. "As it was playing out, I was wondering the same and really just trying to focus on us. Have us find a way to win no matter who was on the floor."
But the Nets wanted to rest most of their starters as the team prepares for the postseason. They also wanted to put key reserves in situations they weren't used to being in.
Williams finished with team highs of 19 points and nine assists. He was one of the Nets' six double-digit scorers.
This game marked the return of Garnett to the Nets' lineup. The center missed the last 19 games with back spasms. He finished with 10 points and four rebounds in just 13:12 of action.
Young finished with a game-high 20 points for the Sixers. Thompson made a career-high six three-pointers to finish with 18 points.
Before the fourth quarter, the Sixers had their fair share of problems against the Nets.
Brooklyn scored on its first eight possessions on an array of driving layups, running bank shots, and alley-oop dunks. And the Nets didn't stop doing those things. In fact, they made it look easy, maneuvering to the basket for layups and dunks.
"It's fan appreciation night," Brown said. "Part of our halftime speech [to the team] was, 'Why would they appreciate this, because I don't.' I know the players don't. That wasn't who we are."
The coach thanked the fans for their season-long support before the game. But the Sixers' fan support didn't make much of a difference on Saturday.
In fact, the game was played in front of a neutral crowd with several thousand Nets fans in attendance. At times, they drowned out the Sixers faithful. There were even chants of "Brooklyn" in the second half.