Nets Get Back in Playoff Race, Capture Gritty Win Over Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS – The Brooklyn Nets were teetering somewhere on the scale between fatigued and exhausted.

They went three overtimes Friday night in a thrilling 129-127 win over the Milwaukee Bucks. They took a flight to Indianapolis and arrived around 3 a.m.

They were going on fumes.

The life of an NBA player isn’t as glamorous as you might think. Sometimes it’s about grit. And desire. And toughness.

And the Nets showed they had all of it.

Led by Brook Lopez (again!), Joe Johnson and the remade Bojan Bogdanovic, the Nets broke the Indiana Pacers, 123-111, outscoring them 35-24 in the fourth quarter for a huge win in the race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

“The way I look at it is, we overcame a lot from last night to win a game and we came back and we backed it up with great team play, with a team win,’’ said Coach Lionel Hollins. “I could go down [the line] and everybody created some way.’’

The Nets (29-39) won on a night when the Celtics, Hornets and Heat were idle. That left only the Pacers (30-39) in the playoff picture.

The Nets are one game behind the Celtics (30-38), who they host Monday night in Barclays Center, for the eighth playoff spot.

Just a suggestion, but you might want to buy your tickets now.

Lopez scored 26 points, grabbed four rebounds and blocked four shots, one night after his epic 32-point, 18-rebound, five-block performance against the Bucks.

Bogdanovic made all eight of his shots, including 3 of 3 on three-pointers, and scored 21 points. He added five rebounds and is playing with the most confidence he’s shown in his rookie season.

Johnson started a late 12-3 run. He had nine of his 14 in the fourth quarter. He’s returned to his clutch form in the last two games.

KEY PLAY: The Nets trailed 78-74 late in the third quarter. But Brook Lopez’s double-clutch layup with one second left gave them an 88-87 lead entering the fourth quarter.

KEY STRETCH: After the Pacers had closed to within 99-98, Joe Johnson hit a clutch jumper with 6:22 left. That ignited a 12-3 Nets' run; Johnson scored five points in the stretch.

KEY STAT: Bogdanovic has been a completely different player than the unsure one he was before the All-Star break. He went 8 of 8 from the field and played 28 minutes and 48 seconds. Bogie played 49 minutes on Friday night, the most by any player off the bench in the NBA this season, scoring 17 points.

NETS GAINS: The win pulls the Nets back into the playoff picture. Just as important, it proves they can post back-to-back wins at the most critical juncture of the season.

TALK: Lionel Hollins on the win: “It’s a very gritty win. You look back at the Dallas win, after the close game in Houston, it was a gritty win as well. I go back to the bigger picture. I look at how we’ve been playing since the All-Star break and what could have been but wasn’t. But still, we’ve been fighting and we’ve been playing.’’


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