Lopez ‘carries’ Nets past Hornets
Center Dominates as Brooklyn Crawls Back into Contention
Here we go again.
These up-and-down Brooklyn Nets refuse to go away quietly in the ongoing race for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot, rebounding from a potentially devastating home loss to Boston on Monday with Wednesday night’s thrilling 91-88 victory at Charlotte.
Brook Lopez, Brooklyn’s most reliable player during the stretch run, poured in 34 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, blocked three shots and picked up a pair of steals, including a key tip of an inbound pass on the Hornets’ final ill-fated possession.
“Brook carried us,” Nets first-year head coach Lionel Hollins noted after Lopez’s spectacular night.
“His touch right now around the basket is off the charts,’’ added Deron Williams, who fed eight of his game-high 14 assists to Lopez as the Nets picked-and-rolled their way to victory behind their 7-footer from Stanford.
Lopez has scored at least 26 points in each of the last four games for Brooklyn, which has gone 3-1 during that stretch.
“[Brook’s] doing everything on both ends of the floor,” added Williams, who also contributed 10 points and seven rebounds to the Brooklyn attack. “He’s asserting himself. He’s being aggressive. He’s just playing so well right now.’’
By topping Charlotte (30-40), the Nets (30-40), who have 12 regular-season games remaining, tied the Hornets for 10th place in the East and moved within only one-half game of both Boston (31-40) and Indiana (31-40) for the last spot in the East.
Brooklyn also won the season series from Charlotte, 2-1, earning itself a potential tiebreaker if the teams finished deadlocked for a postseason spot.
Alan Anderson scored 13 points off the bench and Thaddeus Young added 11 before leaving the game in the third quarter with what the team is calling a hyper-extended knee.
Losing Young, who has invigorated the Brooklyn squad since arriving in a trade-deadline deal from Minnesota for Kevin Garnett, would doubtlessly hamper the Nets’ pursuit of a third consecutive playoff berth since arriving in our fair borough.
An MRI revealed that Young suffered a strained left knee, according to the team’s Twitter account, and that he will miss Friday night’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The team also listed Young as doubtful to play in Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Lopez, who posted his 12th double-double of the campaign, almost let the game slip through his fingers in the late going as his inbound attempt with 3.2 seconds left resulted in a turnover, allowing the Hornets a final shot to tie the contest.
But Lopez, using every inch of his giant frame, tipped away Gerald Henderson’s pass on the ensuing possession, sounding the buzzer on the Nets’ latest big road win.
“No question, it was a relief,” Lopez told the Associated Press of his quick recovery. “It might have looked like I was point shaving [when I turned the ball over], like I made a call to my Uncle Huey in Vegas.”
“I probably should have faked or whatever,” Henderson added. “I wasn’t really sure how much time I had left so I tried to get it to him. They put their 7-footer on me and he tipped it. It’s just a tough play. It’s a tough pass with a 7-footer on you.”
Brooklyn has won four of its last five away from the Barclays Center and remains the only NBA team with more road triumphs (18) than home wins (12).
The Nets will need to shake off their home woes beginning Friday night against LeBron James and the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers in the opener of a three-game stretch at Barclays.
Following the Cavs, the Nets will host the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday and Indiana next Tuesday, a game that will decide the tiebreaker between Brooklyn and the Pacers, before crossing the Brooklyn Bridge to take on the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on April Fool’s Day.
Nothing But Net: Joe Johnson and Williams went a combined 4-for-18 from the field in Wednesday’s win, with Johnson being limited to only five points. … Lopez hasn’t had any shooting woes of late, hitting on over 60 percent of his attempts over the last four games. … Young is averaging just under 14 points in his 18 games with Brooklyn. … After going 1-for-17 from 3-point range against Boston on Monday night, the Nets were a not-so-much-better 3-for-14 from beyond the arc against the Hornets.
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