INDIANAPOLIS - Hold those shovels. Don't toss dirt on the Nets' playoff hopes just yet.
They certainly could have been gassed, considering they were coming off a thrilling triple-overtime victory over the Bucks that had their legs feeling weary. But it didn't take long for the Nets to show they were all business against the Pacers Saturday night.
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"We came out the way we knew we needed to," Brook Lopez said after scoring 26 points to power the Nets to a 123-111 win at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. "We had guys who went long last night and so we were going to need our bench to step up, and they did."
Helped by a 58-33 edge in bench scoring, the 11th-place Nets (29-39) moved within a game of the eighth-place Celtics -- the team they host Monday -- in the Eastern Conference standings.
The solid play from their reserves late, coupled with a strong start ignited by Deron Williams (17 points), was more than enough to push the Nets past the Pacers (30-39), who were led by George Hill's 18 points and nine assists.
Playing as if he had something to prove after logging only 22 minutes and shooting 1-for-6 in their triple-overtime victory over the Bucks, Williams set the tone for the Nets from the opening tip, carving up the Pacers' defense and aggressively looking for his shot. He had 15 points and two assists in the first quarter, displaying a confident bounce that hasn't been seen much from the Nets' $99-million man.
"I knew guys were a lot tired from last night. We all were," Williams said. "We didn't land until 3 [a.m.], but I only played 22 minutes last night. I knew I had more gas than they did, so I just wanted to try to attack early."
When things got tense in the fourth quarter, though, Williams was glued to the bench as coach Lionel Hollins went mostly with a lineup of Jarrett Jack, Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Johnson, Alan Anderson and Lopez for the better part of the final quarter. Bogdanovic and Johnson essentially put the team on their backs, totaling 19 of the Nets' points in their 35-point quarter.
"After we had a tough game last night, we just felt like we needed great energy," Bogdanovic said. "We controlled the game from the first minute to the last minute. We are starting to play much better, and hopefully it continues."
On the strength of a 63-point first half, the Nets built a large enough cushion to hold off the Pacers.
"That's the key, just making plays," Hollins said. "That's what this business is all about, and everybody contributed tonight by making plays and we were able to hold them off."