After starting 2-11, Brook Lopez exploded for 14 fourth quarter points and earned the Nets one of their elusive winning streaks. Capped off by a late rainbow from Bojan Bogdanovic, who has looked like prime-Joe Johnson a little more every night, iced a playoff-bound Pacers team after trailing all night.
On so many occasions this season, the Nets, coming off a fantastic win, fail to keep any sort of positive momentum going. These days, the stakes are lower than ever and the overall goal of winning has been substituted for extended auditions. Nevertheless, tonight’s matinee against the Indiana Pacers offered a special opportunity for a literal win during a season full of moral ones.
Of note, I had mentioned that the Cavaliers game may go down as Larkin’s best game as a Net, but tonight was a very nice offensive follow-up. Although the Nets didn’t hold that same lead in the early moments, Larkin tallied 4 points, 3 assists, and a steal in his first 10 minutes alone.
Unfortunately, Ian Mahinmi, who feels like a Nets-killer in recent times, scored 12 on Lopez quickly and the Pacers held a 36-28 lead with 10 minutes left in the half. Per the YES Network, the Nets are on pace for their second highest PPG over a month since 1991 with 106.2 — sounds great, right? Of course, that stat was mitigated by the fact that they’re well on track to allow the most PPG ever over that time period as well.
Which is ultimately a major problem no matter how you slice it — in fact, in the time it took for me to write this sentence, the Pacers hit 3 three-pointers in a row, putting the Nets down by 14. Despite Sean Kilpatrick’s valiant 10-point quarter, the Pacers made 59% of their shots in the first half, placing them well and solidly in control of all basketball-related activities. And while Sergey Karasev’s team-high 13 first half points were a sight for sore eyes, it doesn’t imply very many positives for the rest of the squad.
And yet, there they were, just down by 6 at the half thanks to Larkin’s 10, Kilpatrick’s 8, and the aforementioned Karasev, whose leaping assist was easily the play of the night. While LeBron James did much of the damage (30 points) on Thursday, the Nets allowed 5 to hit double-figures (Paul George, Jordan Hill, C.J. Miles, George Hill, and Mahinmi) and that success extended long past the halftime break.
The Nets only turned the ball over 9 times against the Cavaliers and they surpassed that number with ease (21), but also forced the Pacers into 20 of their own. YES Network’s Ryan Ruocco and his dubbed”Energy Lineup” (tonight featuring Henry Sims, Chris McCullough, Hollis-Jefferson, Kilpatrick, and Larkin) did well to chip away but the even-scoring load for Indiana kept them a nose ahead into the fourth quarter.
Donald Sloan, who has struggled since Larkin moved into the starting lineup, helped the Nets stay within arm’s length. Like flipping a switch, it was time for The Brook Lopez Show once more. The Nets, who have run their offense through Lopez in the fourth as of late, carried them through the finish line, scoring 14 points without a single answer from the Pacers.
The Nets won. The Nets won two in a row. That’s a winning streak and it took them until late March to reach 20 wins, but this one feels sweeter than usual. They were sloppy and poor at times, however, there is one new adjective on the list these days:
The Nets are fun.
They are fast, they are young, and they make mistakes.
But fun — I will gladly accept that over these last 10 games.
I mentioned avoiding any more moral victories up above and they did that in spades tonight. This is a win that may represent their path moving forward and well into the future.
The stats: 23 PTS, 7-16 FG, 9 REB, 4 AST, 2 STL, 4 TOV
Ian Mahinmi: Lopez’s kryptonite? After shooting 1-7 in the first half, he left Nets fans wondering what exactly went wrong.
No in-depth analysis here, he just simply struggled early on. It happens.
However, that’s what makes this late-game eruption even more of a mystery!
His fourth quarter more than made up for his problems, exploding for 14 points in the final frame, even hitting a handful of clutch shots along the way.
When the Nets need him the most, Lopez will always be there and that’s a wonderful feeling.