BROOKLYN - Paul Pierce will be the first to rave about teammate Kevin Garnett’s unique ability to communicate, his uncanny sense of how and when to deliver a message.
Yet as this remarkable 2013-14 season for the Brooklyn Nets has unfolded, it is Pierce who has steadily demonstrated his leadership skills.
He has not hesitated to challenge the second unit, accept blame for a substandard performance or attach added importance to specific games or stretches.
That’s why he played 30 minutes despite a painful right shoulder ‘stinger’ injury in the Nets 101-97 win over the Toronto Raptors Monday night.
And that’s why he owned the Miami Heat with a 29-point effort Wednesday night in a thrilling 96-95 win in South Florida.
The win lifted the Nets to a season-best record of 33-30. They are 23-9 since Jan.1, one of the great turnarounds in franchise history.
“It feels good, man,” Pierce said. “We were written off early. It feels good for us to be able to turn this thing around.’’
“We had these visions of playing like this before the season started. Unfortunately it took longer than we expected, but I’m glad we were able to turn it around at this point in the season at the right time.”
The back-to-back wins over Toronto, the Atlantic Division leader, and Miami, the two-time defending NBA champ, suggest that the Nets are legit contenders to win the Eastern Conference.
“They are a very good team and exploit mismatches,’’ said Miami superstar LeBron James. “They have a lot of guys who can beat you.”
NOTES: Two of those guys – KG (back spasms) and Andrei Kirilenko (sprained ankle) did not play against the Heat. Garnett missed his seventh straight game. AK47 missed his second. KG is not likely to play Friday night in Washington. AK47 is day to day.