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Lopez beats buzzer as Nets pull out win over Pistons

First Career Game-Winner Helps Brooklyn Avoid Late-Game Collapse

March 22, 2017 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Nets center Brook Lopez launches what proved to be the game-winning, buzzer-beating jumper Tuesday night in front of 14,343 fans at Downtown’s Barclays Center. AP photo
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It took 551 career games and the better part of nine long seasons in the NBA, but Brook Lopez finally enjoyed the thrill of hitting a game-winning jumper at the buzzer Tuesday night in Downtown Brooklyn.

His reward?

Giving rookie Caris LeVert a piggyback ride around the Barclays Center.

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The 7-footer helped the Nets shake off a potential fourth-quarter collapse by nailing an off-balance shot from the baseline just prior to end of regulation, lifting Brooklyn to a 98-96 victory over the Detroit Pistons in front of 14,343 paying customers on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.

Lopez stood straight up like a stone-cold assassin after nailing the winning shot, but was quickly ambushed by LeVert, who climbed on the former All-Star center’s back for an impromptu free trip down the Nets’ herringbone-designed hardwood.

“I was very confident in [the shot],” said Lopez, the longest-tenured Net, who finished with a game-high 29 points, 12 of which came in the final quarter. “We executed it so well on that last play.”  

The Nets (14-56) spent the better part of the final six minutes giving away a seemingly comfortable double-digit lead.

When Tobias Harris drained an eight-footer over a pair of defenders with 2.4 ticks remaining on the clock, the Nets called timeout and tried to find a way to get the ball in the hands of Lopez, who watched former teammate Joe Johnson bury a bushel of walk-off shots during the franchise’s first three-plus seasons here.

But now it was Lopez’s turn.

The Stanford alum caught a pass from Randy Foye at the top of the circle, dribbled around a screen set by rookie Isaiah Whitehead and down the left side of the lane before turning his body in awkward angle and releasing a tough-angle shot that weaved its way through the basket.

After further video review, the basket counted, but Lopez and LeVert were already prancing their way back toward the Nets’ jubilant bench, which proceeded to mob Lopez near mid-court.

“Quite honestly Brook made a heck of a play,” first-year head coach Kenny Atkinson said.

“It was more of a catch-and-shoot, but he took a dribble, knew how much time was left and made a heck of a shot.”

With starting point guard Jeremy Lin down yet again with his latest injury, a sprained right ankle suffered during Sunday’s home loss to Dallas, the Nets’ young and ever-improving understudies stepped up.

LeVert scored 15 points, recent 10-day signee Archie Goodwin and Spencer Dinwiddie added 10 apiece and trade-deadline acquisition K.J. McDaniels finished with 11 points for Brooklyn, which averted a fourth consecutive home defeat since snapping its franchise-record 16-game slide at Barclays with a victory over the Knicks here on March 12.

“I thought our bench was good,” Atkinson said. “Archie came in and gave us a nice boost. KJ came in and made some plays, some nice finishes at the rim and hit a couple of threes.

“It’s not easy playing against a good team like that and those guys haven’t been with us very long, so I was pleasantly surprised with their performance.”

But the biggest surprise of the night came from Lopez, whose willful adaptation to his latest new coach’s frenetic, 3-point shooting style proves his worth to the only organization he has known since being selected by the then-New Jersey Nets with the 10th overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft.

Lopez also weighed in on a brawl involving his twin brother Robin in Chicago Tuesday night. Robin Lopez tussled with Toronto center Serge Ibaka after receiving an elbow from the Raptors’ tough-as-nails enforcer.

Both players threw punches, but neither had much effect before they were separated.

“Well, the Lopez twins were just both doing what we do tonight,” Lopez snickered when asked about the incident. “[Robin] was doing his dirty job … and I was playing real basketball.”

The Nets, who improved to 5-7 this month, finally appear to be playing some real basketball of their own in an otherwise really bad season.

“Our team was very resilient,” Lopez said. “Everyone played huge roles and helped close the game out for us.”

Nothing But Net: Lin continues to be listed as day-to-day, but this ankle issue isn’t expected to keep him out anywhere near as long as the 44 games he missed over two stints due to a pair of hamstring injuries … Lopez’s 551 career games moved him past Mike Gminski for second place on the team’s all-time list. Only Buck Williams (635) has played more games for the franchise … The Nets will cap this three-game homestand Thursday night against Phoenix before departing on a two-game trip through Washington on Friday and Atlanta on Sunday.


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