Nets back in playoff spot with much-needed win over Pacers

By on April 1, 2015

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Published: Tuesday, March 31, 2015, 10:14 PM

Updated: Wednesday, April 1, 2015, 1:33 AM

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NETS 111, PACERS 106

Not that there was debate anyway. Not that the Knicks put up a fight or bothered with trying this season.

But heading into Wednesday’s final installment this season of a “rivalry” that has failed to live up to anything exciting between the Knicks and Nets, the team from the outer borough can claim with certainty that it is the best club in New York City. At least until Chris Mullin gets his say.

Brook Lopez leads Nets with 24 points and 11 rebounds as they beat the Pacers at Barclays Center to reclaim the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference.Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

Brook Lopez leads Nets with 24 points and 11 rebounds as they beat the Pacers at Barclays Center to reclaim the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference.

“Hopefully, we can go to Manhattan and get ourselves a win,” Joe Johnson said.

That shouldn’t be too difficult under the circumstances. The Nets picked a good time to find their groove.

Saved all season by the less-than-stellar state of the Eastern Conference, they enter April with their first four-game winning streak, after toppling the Pacers on Tuesday night at home, 111-106. With nine games remaining, the Nets — winners of eight of their last 10 — are within 2½ games of the sixth seed, Jason Kidd’s Milwaukee Bucks.

Brooklyn Nets guard Deron Williams chips in with 11 points, 8 assists and six rebounds on Tuesday night.Kathy Willens/AP

Brooklyn Nets guard Deron Williams chips in with 11 points, 8 assists and six rebounds on Tuesday night.

“We’re more together. We care more about each other,” coach Lionel Hollins said. “When you have adversity, you pull together and keep fighting. Sometimes it doesn’t work but, you know. . . . I’d love to have a better start (to the season). But we’ve been playing well since the All-Star break. As we’ve grown we’ve gotten better at sustaining and executing, and our defense just keeps getting better as a group. We’re not overly talented individuals defensively, I think we have couple players that do a good job — Alan (Anderson), Markel (Brown). But our team defense has gotten better.”

Brooklyn (33-40) moved into sole possession of the eighth spot Tuesday, a half-game ahead of the Celtics and 19½ better than its opponent at the Garden on April Fool’s Day. The Nets also clinched the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Pacers (32-42), who succumbed to pressure defense in the final two minutes, hoisting two bad three-pointers with the game in the balance.

“We have to keep winning and you like to be playing well at the end of the season so that if you get into the playoffs, then you can feel good about yourselves going into the playoffs,” Hollins said. “But you have to play well to get there.”

Pacers center Ian Mahinmi and Nets center Mason Plumlee collide going for a rebound.Kathy Willens/AP

Pacers center Ian Mahinmi and Nets center Mason Plumlee collide going for a rebound.

Brook Lopez paced the Nets with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Deron Williams added 11 points and eight assists. Johnson dropped in 21 while Anderson scored 20 off the bench.

“I keep saying it, and it sounds cliche, but we’ve just got to win basketball games,” said Williams.

The Nets are actually sticking to that mantra lately. On Tuesday, they landed a haymaker in the first quarter, storming out to an 18-point lead behind Lopez and Williams. After Indiana pulled within three with about two minutes left, Johnson scored five points and the Pacers couldn’t respond.

“We have a tough one (Wednesday) on the road against the Knicks,” Anderson said.

He was being kind.

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