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Lin sits as Nets shut down slumping Lakers

Point Guard’s Balking Back Doesn’t Hamper Brooklyn’s Defense

December 15, 2016 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brook Lopez goes up for two of his 20 points in the Nets’ 107-97 victory over the Lakers before a sellout crowd at Downtown’s Barclays Center on Wednesday night. AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
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Jeremy Lin’s back tightened up Wednesday morning, delaying the point guard’s long-awaited return to the Barclays Center’s herringbone-designed hardwood.

But the Nets’ previously porous defense somehow tightened up as well, no doubt aided by the slumping Los Angeles Lakers’ shooting woes.

The end result was a rousing 107-97 victory for Brooklyn in front of a sellout crowd of 17,732 at the Downtown arena, marking the first time the Nets held an opponent below the century mark in scoring since a 99-95 home loss to Charlotte on Nov. 4.

“At the end of the day it boiled down to the defensive end,” said Brook Lopez, who poured in eight of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, helping Brooklyn outscore Los Angeles, 32-21, over the final 12 minutes.

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“We knew we had to get stops and keep from fouling them and rebound more.”

The Nets dominated the boards by a 61-49 margin, with power forward Trevor Booker leading the way with a game-high 18 caroms.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 23 points and Sean Kilpatrick added 22 for Brooklyn, which held the Lakers — losers of eight straight — to 38 percent shooting, including 6-of-27 from 3-point range.

“If we’re going to take a step, that’s where we need to take a step, defensively,” noted first-year head coach Kenny Atkinson.

“In the end, we rebounded better and we were more physical. I think that’s a theme for us — physicality. Just in general, I thought we were a more physical ball club.”

Lin, who had missed 17 games with a hamstring injury prior to playing a strong 20 minutes in Monday night’s narrow defeat in Houston, was primed for his first Brooklyn appearance since Nov. 2.

But Atkinson ruled him out shortly before tip-off due to the back issue.

“We’ll evaluate him again [Thursday],” Atkinson intimated, hoping to have his starting point guard back in action for Friday’s three game trip-opening visit to Orlando.

Lin’s absence left the Nets searching for a late-game floor leader against the Lakers, and Atkinson tabbed Brooklyn’s own Isaiah Whitehead to take the quarterback position down the stretch.

The Lincoln High School legend had six of his eight points in the fourth quarter, and fueled Lopez’s late run with a pair of nifty assists after shredding through the Los Angeles defense.

“We were debating on whether to take [Whitehead] out or not,” Atkinson admitted of the learning-on-the-job rookie. “We felt like we needed his competitiveness, his defense and a lucky decision on our part.”

Joe Harris added 11 points off the bench for Brooklyn, which improved to 7-17 overall, but a downright respectable 6-7 on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.

The Nets will try to snap their seven-game road losing streak Friday night against the Magic before heading to Philadelphia on Sunday and Toronto next Tuesday.

Brooklyn returns home to host the defending Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors next Thursday before what should be a second straight sellout crowd at Barclays.

* * *

Iverson Fleming put on a 3-point shooting clinic in Minneapolis on Wednesday night, nearly leading the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds to their second straight win over a major conference opponent.

But Fleming’s 24 points, fueled by six second-half shots from long range, weren’t quite enough to carry the Blackbirds to victory as they suffered a 76-66 loss to the Minnesota Golden Gophers before 8,461 fans at Williams Arena.

Iverson, who guided LIU to a 74-73 upset of St. John’s of the Big East last Sunday afternoon at the Barclays Center, finished 9-of-14 from the floor overall, boosting his status as a legitimate Northeast Conference Player of the Year candidate.

The Blackbirds (7-4) finished 9-for-21 on shots from beyond the arc, but watched the Big Ten’s Gophers (11-1) methodically pull away after closing within 38-36 on Fleming’s 3-pointer early in the second half.

‘We’re a pretty efficient 3-point shooting team,” LIU Brooklyn coach Jack Perri said. ”We don’t usually take a lot. They’re holding teams to 26 percent from 3 on the year. So, we said, ‘Take the right ones,’ and I thought — for the most part  — we did.”

Jerome Frink added 13 points and Nura Zanna had 10 for LIU, which will finally return to Downtown Brooklyn’s Steinberg Wellness Center Sunday at 2 p.m. for its first true home game since a season-opening victory over John Jay here on Nov. 11.

Frink, the Blackbirds’ leading scorer with 16.9 points per game, was actually recruited by Minnesota coach Richard Pitino, making Wednesday’s game a reunion of sorts for the two.

”Jerome was the first guy I went and did an in-home visit [with],” recalled Pitino, who is the son of two-time national title-winning coach Rick Pitino.

”It was my first in-home visit as a head coach, not really knowing what the heck I was doing. I’m proud of him. I always thought he’d be a pretty good player and he showed that. I think he’ll be one of the better players in their league.”

The Blackbirds, eager to win their first NEC title since ending a three-year run atop the conference in 2013, will be in Brooklyn for the next four games, including a Dec. 21 meeting with Niagara at the Barclays Center on Dec. 21.

They open league action Dec. 29 against Mount St. Mary at the Wellness Center.


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