Lopez layup gives Nets win over Knicks and tie for 7th seed

By on April 2, 2015

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Published: Wednesday, April 1, 2015, 10:20 PM

Updated: Thursday, April 2, 2015, 2:01 AM

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NETS 100, KNICKS 98

It would’ve been typical of the Nets — yes, those maddening Nets of December, January and February — to blow this game and remind everybody that they’re not built for prosperity.

It would’ve been so Nets-ian to roll into the Garden with a four-game winning streak and squander a 16-point advantage in the second half, with the playoff race in the twilight phase.

And as that seemingly iron-clad lead disintegrated down the stretch — with Lionel Hollins stubbornly sticking with Jarrett Jack over Deron Williams for more than half the fourth quarter — that was where Wednesday night was headed.

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Brook Lopez (l.) scores on a putback in the final seconds to give the Nets a win over the Knicks.

“I know the Knicks would’ve loved to have spoiled us tonight and beat us,” Hollins said with relief after the 100-98 victory. “But we got the win — whether it was one point or 20.”

The Nets averted a total disaster and meltdown because Williams went vintage (26 points, seven assists, seven rebounds), Brook Lopez put back his own miss with two seconds remaining and Knicks forward Cleanthony Early missed two potential go-ahead shots in the final 22 seconds — including an air-balled three-pointer at the buzzer.

The Nets (34-40), winners of a season-high five straight and seven of their last eight, completed their first season sweep of the Knicks in eight years, which is sure to please Brooklyn’s front office. It wasn’t long ago that CEO Brett Yormark was still talking about capitalizing on the Knicks’ woes and “taking over the city.”

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Deron Williams scores 26 points and adds seven rebounds and seven assists.

But more importantly, they moved into a tie for seventh in the East with the Heat (34-40) and remained a half-game ahead of the Celtics (34-41).

“I don’t go back and look at why we were losing,” Hollins said. “All I know is we’re winning now. That’s because we’re playing much harder — much harder and more together. I can say that from the time we traded for Thaddeus Young (while giving dinosaur Kevin Garnett to the Timberwolves), it gave us more versatility and quickness at power forward. Inserting (rookie) Markel Brown into the starting lineup gave us more quickness and defense. We’ve played better since then.”

Left unmentioned in that comment is the vastly improved play of Brooklyn’s backbone — Williams and Lopez. On Wednesday, Williams carried the Nets in the first half, scoring 18 points by the break. Lopez then polished off the Knicks on his 27th birthday, finishing with 18 points and seven rebounds.

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Andrea Bargnani leads the Knicks with 22 points.

“It’s a good birthday present,” Lopez said. “I’ll be selfish and give myself a present.”

The Knicks tried to stop Lopez, so they were pummeled by Willliams. Jack (seven points in 15 minutes) wasn’t able to duplicate that success with the reserves, and the Nets found themselves in a dogfight against a bad team.

They survived.

“It wasn’t a pretty win,” Williams said. “We would’ve liked to put it away earlier. But it didn’t happen that way. We just had to fight for it.” 

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