The Brooklyn Nets snuck into the playoffs on the final day of the regular season, and they needed a little help from Lionel Hollins’s friends.
Led by Marc Gasol’s 33 points and 13 rebounds on a hurt ankle, the Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Indiana Pacers 95-83 close to midnight Wednesday night, officially eliminating the Pacers from the last spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs and gifting the Nets the eighth seed.
Hollins — the former Grizzlies coach and current Nets coach — said before Wednesday night’s game that he didn’t contact anyone in the Grizzlies organization before the game, joking that he didn’t need to call in any favors.
But once all was settled, that changed.
“I sent (Gasol) a text this morning: I said, ‘Congrats, good luck, and thank you,'” Hollins said on WFAN radio Thursday morning.
Hollins coached Gasol in the first five seasons of Gasol’s career, and is credited for helping develop Gasol into one of the league’s best defenders. Gasol won the Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2012-13, Hollins’s last year with the Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies were not without selfish intentions. A win locked them into the fifth seed in the Western Conference, securing home-court advantage over the Portland Trail Blazers.[note]Despite being a lower seed, the Grizzlies earn home-court because they finished the season with a better record than the division-winning Trail Blazers.[/note] “I think they went out to help themselves, and in the process they helped us,” Hollins added.
By earning eighth, the Nets take on the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks, who won a franchise-record 60 games and swept the Nets in the regular season, winning the four games by an average of 17.3 points per game. The Nets did come close in their final matchup, losing 114-111, but the Hawks had little to play for and were without forward Paul Millsap. “The motivation for them was a little less than the motivation for us, so you have to take it with a grain of salt,” Hollins said.