On a night dedicated to Biggie Smalls, the Brooklyn Nets made sure to defend the borough.
Playing at Barclays Center for the first time since Feb. 15, the Nets made a triumphant return home, beating the New York Knicks 120-112 on Sunday evening.
They did it largely from beyond the arc, dropping a season-high 19 threes on Sunday - two shy of the franchise record - including an absurd 14-of-20 in the first half. And when the Nets felt the heat from a fourth-quarter Knicks push, the three-ball was there for them again, as was Jeremy Lin (13 points), whose clutch nine fourth-quarter points were key to gritting out the win.
“We were just super comfortable getting back home and playing on our home court,” said Brook Lopez, who had a team-high 25 points and six three-pointers. “We wanted to come out and celebrate being home. It was just a great live game against the Knicks - it always is - and we stepped up to that challenge.”
The three-point shooting was the story of the first half, as the Nets shot 70% from deep, opening up a season-high 18-point lead at the break, but the story in the second half was Lin.
The Knicks wrestled the Nets lead from 22 points down to as few as five in the fourth and each time as the momentum was starting to turn heavily in New York’s favor, the Nets point guard stepped up.
Lin came up with nine fourth-quarter points, going shot for shot in a dramatic showdown with Carmelo Anthony (27 points) down the stretch, but also contributed with key defensive stops. Lin ran in for a double-team on Anthony, helping Caris LeVert strip Anthony, before dishing down court to Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (14 points, 11 rebounds). Jefferson’s dunk stopped a 10-3 Knicks run and helped Lin spark himself after having a tough start to his night.
“I think I was still out west for the first three-and-a-half quarters,” Lin said after the game. “You just want to get a little bit of rhythm and sometimes all you need to do is see one good play happen. One thing clicks for a player and then they go on a run. That was a huge defensive play and then we got out. Not only that, but it killed the momentum they had as well.”
Lin had another clutch moment, responding for the Nets with a three after Anthony made it a five-point game with five minutes to play. Lin also took a big hit from Kristaps Porzingis, (19 points) which wound up being Porzingis’ sixth, sending the Knicks center to the showers.
“It was massive,” Lopez said of Lin. “We have unlimited confidence in him. We completely believe in him and he’s paramount to what we do, both offensively and defensively.”
“Our resolve was also big on the defensive end,” Lopez added. “Melo hit a lot of tough shots down the stretch, but we stayed with it, our guys stayed aggressive and we didn’t fold.”
The Nets couldn’t miss in the first half, hitting eight of their first nine three’s as a team, with Lopez starting out 5-for-5 in the first quarter. While Lopez couldn’t buy a basket in the post, but was money from deep.
The magnetic pull from beyond the arc wasn’t limited to Lopez. Quincy Acy (12 points) went 4-of-4, while Isaiah Whitehead (10 points) and Spencer Dinwiddie (9 points) each drained their first two. When Lopez made the extra pass out from the corner to LeVert (13 points), the rookie didn’t miss either, going 2-of-2 on the night.
“We were just shooting with a lot of confidence and making them. Our team did a great job of sharing the ball, it started with penetration, attacking the basket and it opened a lot of things up for us.”
Hollis-Jefferson had a game high 11 rebounds, as the Nets out-rebounded the Knicks 55-43.
The Nets return to action on Tuesday night as they host the Oklahoma City Thunder at Barclays Center. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m.