Deron Williams drives Nets to victory with 33 points, 14 assists
INDIANAPOLIS -- They were rolling.
The Nets were roasting the Pacers, scoring 69 points in the first half, the most they've scored in a half all season. In a hostile environment akin to a postseason contest, they appeared to have the Pacers on the ropes. The Nets built a 24-point lead, only to see it crumble when Indiana seized the momentum in the second half, and the Pacers grabbed their first lead with five minutes remaining in the fourth.
But the Nets dug in, responding with a 14-5 spurt to close things out in a 117-109 victory over Indiana Friday night.
Paired with the Bulls' loss in Toronto, the Nets (47-32) clinched at least the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, ensuring home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
There's still an outside possibility that the Nets, who have won four consecutive games and five of their last six, can catch the Pacers (49-30) for the third seed.
But they'd have to finish at least one game better than Indiana in the standings because the Pacers are division winners, which gives them the tiebreaker.
"We would have liked to have finished the game a little better and put them away a little earlier," said Williams, who had 33 points and 14 assists before leaving with less than a minute remaining after banging his left leg while trying to fight through a screen. "But this is a resilient team and they turned it up to a different level defensively in the second half. The easy looks we were getting in the first half just weren't there, and we had to fight and claw and scratch for every little basket, every little point, and they made us earn it."
The Nets were up 76-52 after Joe Johnson's fadeaway jumper, but things started going in the wrong direction later in the third quarter, particularly after Reggie Evans was ejected after collecting his second technical of the game. Still, they found a way to get it done -- just as they'll have to find a way come the postseason next week.
"It was a playoff-type atmosphere and we knew they were going to make a run," said Johnson, who, along with Lopez, had 24 points. "We kind of lost our composure for a minute. But when it counted, we were able to lock down defensively and come up with big shots."