Nets and Pacers square off in pivotal game

The Nets welcome back the Thadwagon. (AP)
The Nets welcome back the Thadwagon. (AP)

With just ten games remaining in the regular season, the Nets (32-40) suddenly hold their playoff destiny after winning their third straight game on Sunday. Led by Eastern Conference Player of the Week Brook Lopez’s 30 points and 11 rebounds, the Nets beat the shorthanded Los Angeles Lakers 107-99 to overtake sole possession of the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. Joe Johnson filled up the stat sheet for the second straight game, notching 18 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists, while Markel Brown poured in a career-high 17 points of his own.

Tonight, the Nets take on the Indiana Pacers (32-41) in a pivotal game: the winner will take the season series (2-1), netting them the first tie-breaker for playoff contention. The Pacers and Boston Celtics begin the day just a half game behind the Nets in the standings.

Just ten days ago, the Nets shot a season-high 61.3 percent from the floor in their 123-111 win over the Pacers in Indianapolis. Lopez once again led the Nets with 24 points, and Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 points including a perfect 8-for-8 from the field in the process. The scorching shooting performance was the highest field percentage in a game for the Nets since February of 2009.

After a six-game losing streak, the Pacers have won two of their last three games, including a 104-99 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday night. C.J. Miles led the Pacers with 28 points, and George Hill scored eight of his 14 points in the fourth quarter to go along with five assists.

The Pacers will be thrown into the thick of the hunt during the next four games by facing the Nets, Celtics, Hornets, and Heat; only two and half games separate the five teams in the standings.

Thaddeus Young will play after missing the last two games with a left knee strain. Since acquired at the trading deadline, Young is averaging 13.6 points and 5.1 rebounds while shooting 49.5 percent from the field.

Deron Williams missed Monday’s shootaround with lingering symptoms from an illness he’s been carrying since before Sunday’s game, but said at shootaround he was fully healthy and expects to play.

What to watch for: Paintballing! The Nets have scored 50-plus points in the paint in seven of the last nine games, and lead the NBA since the All-Star break with 51.4 points in the paint per game.

Tip-off is at 7:30 PM EDT at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

Additional reporting provided by Devin Kharpertian