Strong fourth quarter lifts Nets past Pacers for sixth win in row
There is nothing like an adrenaline rush to overcome a bruised thigh, or the flu, or a big deficit against a hot team, or a season that was heading south in a hurry. You don't even feel the pain.
"I felt it out there. Definitely, I was in pain, but it wasn't bad," said Deron Williams, who had been questionable for the Nets' game against the Pacers Sunday night at Barclays Center because of the thigh injury. "It was kind of annoying, a nuisance. But it didn't affect me."
Once he got the juices flowing, there was no stopping him or his team. The Nets scored 17 unanswered points during the fourth quarter to turn a discouraging eight-point deficit into a rousing 97-86 win that maintained the adrenaline-soaked run that the Nets have been on.
Behind Williams' 22 points, Joe Johnson's 20 (despite the aftereffects of an upper respiratory infection) and Brook Lopez's 10-point fourth quarter, the Nets extended their winning streak to six games and are 8-1 under interim coach P.J. Carlesimo.
This win was a little different, though, in that -- unlike many of the recent wins -- it came against a winning team that was on its own adrenaline rush (four wins in a row before Sunday night, and a 13-3 run overall). "We beat a good team in tough circumstances," Carlesimo said.
The circumstances included having one of their key players, Gerald Wallace, out with bruised ribs, having a few guys battling the flu and with Williams a big question mark at the start of the day. He was injured in the Friday night game and was doubtful. "So I played him 41 minutes," Carlesimo said. "Shows you how smart I am."
Truth is, there was no way he would sit out. "We had won five in a row. The last time we won five in a row, we went on a 3-13 [slide]," the point guard said. "This was a big game for us."
They had something to prove, and they proved it against a deep, talented team that had all kinds of answers. For a while, David West (27 points) looked unstoppable. Then, early in the fourth quarter, the Nets stopped the Pacers cold. "The defense fuels us," Carlesimo said.
So did a couple of jump shots from Lopez, who had meandered through a not-so-aggressive first half. A 77-69 hole didn't look so deep. Johnson hit a three-pointer that had the crowd of 16,499 howling. Williams kept hitting free throws (he has made 32 in a row). It happened so quickly that the Nets didn't realize it was a 17-0 burst.
"I just knew that we were behind and we were trying to get back," said C.J. Watson, who was on the floor with Williams and Johnson. "Once we got the lead, there was no looking back."
Just like there is no looking back to December, when the team was so inconsistent and tentative that Avery Johnson got fired. Williams loosened up, not trying to impress everyone with lots of extra practice. "Because of that, my ankles feel better, my wrist feels better," he said, turning and actually knocking on the wooden front of his locker.
Johnson said: "We know we're a pretty good team when we're hitting on all cylinders. We're capable of beating any team in this league, so it's no surprise to us."
He said it with a voice that revealed a little congestion. "I'm still a little under the weather," he said. "But I'm all right. Nothing is going to keep me away from this game."