BROOKLYN – Lionel Hollins sounded the alarm before the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers tipped off Sunday afternoon at Barclays Center.
Having won 5 of 6, Hollins reminded the media that the Nets were not a team that could take any opponent for granted. Not even the lowly and decimated Lakers.
“We have to scratch and claw,’’ said Hollins.
Which is exactly what the Nets did in a 107-99 win over the Lakers. It wasn’t pretty but when the final horn sounded, all that mattered was this:
The Nets (32-40) had won their second straight at home.
They had tied their longest winning streak of the season at three straight.
They had won for the sixth time in seven games.
And they had kept the heat on the Boston Celtics (32-40), who hosted the Los Angeles Clippers Sunday night, for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Brook Lopez led the way, scoring 30 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. It marked the third time in a one-week span that Lopez had scored 30 or more points.
The last time a Nets player accomplished that was 2011. The player? Brook Lopez.
KEY PLAY: Lionel Hollins called a timeout after the Lakers had closed to within 96-93 with 3:48 left in the fourth quarter. Deron Williams and Brook Lopez executed a perfect pick-and-roll, with Williams finding Lopez for a slam dunk and a 98-93 lead.
KEY STRETCH: After Lopez’s dunk, the Nets went back to the same play. Williams found Lopez, who this time was double-teamed. Lopez didn’t hesitate, finding Joe Johnson wide open in the left corner. Johnson drained the three to break the Lakers.
NETS GAINS: Markel Brown had scored in double figures just once in the last 15 games. He’s stayed in the starting lineup because of his athleticism and defense. Brown added offense to the mix on Sunday, scoring a career-high 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting. He added four rebounds, four assists and two steals.
KEY STAT: The Nets had 29 assists on 42 field goals and just eight turnovers.
TALK: Hollins has been a harsh critic of Lopez, but after the 7-foot center carried the Nets once again, he got a mouthful of praise from the head coach.
"We’re playing towards him and he’s delivered. He’s played big time basketball.’’