Nets Fall, 122-118, in Lin's Return

By Tom Dowd

A scorching third quarter got the Brooklyn Nets back in business against the Houston Rockets, but the red-hot hosts held off the Nets in a fourth-quarter scramble for their seventh straight win, 122-118.

Down by as many as 15 points in the first half, the Nets finally edged back in front with 2:20 to go after Trevor Booker grabbed a defensive rebound and went end-to-end for the basket and the foul. The three-point play put Brooklyn up 114-113. When Brook Lopez followed with a fallaway jumper, the Nets had a 16-5 run and a 116-113 lead against one of the league’s toughest teams.

After an Eric Gordon 3-pointer and James Harden’s foul-line jumper, Joe Harris got the Nets even on a drive with 39.8 seconds to go. But as Houston scored the final four points of the game at the free throw line, the Nets missed their opportunities. Patrick Beverley’s deflection of a Nets inbound pass under the basket with eight seconds to go denied Brooklyn a final shot.

“They made some plays and we didn’t,” said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson. “It could have gone either way. My takeaway is I’m happy we bounced back — not happy with the loss obviously — but we had a chance and happy with the way we bounced back after the loss to San Antonio."

Brook Lopez led the Nets with 26 points, Sean Kilpatrick had 17 and Trevor Booker posted his 10th double-double of the season with 10 points and 13 rebounds. Jeremy Lin had 10 points and seven assists, and the Nets were +17 with Lin on the floor in his 20 minutes.

It was Lin’s first action since he injured his hamstring on Nov. 2 against Detroit. The point guard entered he game with 4:14 remaining the first quarter.

“I was really thrilled,” Atkinson said of Lin’s performance. “You usually expect a guy to be a little rusty, but I didn’t see that. He had great energy and played with great poise.”

Harden had 36 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds for the Rockets, and Gordon had 24 points while making 6-of-10 3-point attempts. Every time the Nets made a run at the Rockets for much of the second half, it seemed it was either Harden or Gordon with the answer.

While the Nets have been one of the NBA’s most active teams from beyond the 3-point line this season, nobody fires away like the Rockets. They came into the game leading the league in 3-point attempts — three more per game than the Nets — as well as makes, while making 38 percent, fifth in the league.

This time they made 17-of-43, including 10-of-21 in the second half. Gordon hit four of his six threes in the fourth quarter.

“I thought Eric Gordon really hurt us,” said Atkinson. “He really hit some huge threes.”

Trailing 53-43 at halftime, the Nets put together a 42-point third quarter that brought them within five points going into the fourth. But they were still down 86-73 with under three minutes to go in the quarter before closing the third on a 12-4 run.

Lin fed a cutting Rondae Hollis-Jefferson for a basket, and Hollis-Jefferson followed with two free throws and then one-of-two from the line, with Anthony Bennett putting back the miss. Lin banked in a runner, then slipped off a Lopez screen to close the quarter with a 3-pointer and bring the Nets within 90-85 going into the fourth. Brooklyn scored 75 points in the second half.

“I think we did a better job driving the ball to the rim,” said Atkinson. “We had a ton of points in the paint. There’s some real positives to take out of it offensively.”

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