SACRAMENTO, Calif. — At long last, there was joy in “Mudville,” which is what the Nets’ locker room had become after 16 straight losses. Not only did the Nets finally snap their losing streak three games short of matching the franchise record, but they did it with big guns Brook Lopez and Jeremy Lin totaling 14 of the final 18 Nets points to carry them across the finish line in a 109-100 win over the Kings Wednesday night at Golden 1 Center.
Lin was held out of the fourth quarter in the first two games of his comeback from a 60-day injury absence. But he returned for the final 5:06 against the Kings and had six of his 17 points and one of his five assists in that stretch. Lopez added eight of his 24 points in his final 6:37.
“It felt great,” Lin said. “They told me the previous two games — I thought I was going to play in the fourth, but they were like, ‘No, you’re not going to play in the fourth.’ So that was kind of frustrating. But tonight, I knew I was going to be back out there, so I was trying to stay more mentally locked in. That’s the funnest time. I love the fourth quarter.”
Lopez was only too happy to welcome Lin back to crunch time. “It’s so huge having him out there as a leader and a playmaker,” Lopez said. “He does so much for our team and makes so many things easier. I think everyone agrees we absolutely were happy to see him back out there, no question.”
Coach Kenny Atkinson credited his starters for their take-charge mentality that “set the tone” at the beginning when they built a 15-point lead. The Kings briefly tied it in the second quarter but never led. In the third quarter, the Nets held the Kings to 18 points and 20 percent shooting. When the Kings cut it to five early in the fourth, Isaiah Whitehead and Quincy Acy led a strong bench effort to push the lead to 13 shortly before the starters returned.
“It’s nice having Jeremy out there,” Atkinson said of the finish. “Instead of the ball going around haphazardly, he really directs it. I give him a lot of credit.”
Lopez became the second Net in franchise history after Buck Williams to reach the 10,000-point plateau, and Lin assisted on the dunk that put him over the top. “It was great to see Brook get his 10,000th point with a win,” Atkinson said. “We gave him the game ball after the game. Through a tough season, his spirit, the professional he is, how hard he works, it’s just a pleasure to be around him every day.”
Lopez expressed pride in his achievement and thanked his teammates over the years, but he was most happy about the win and was looking forward to the next game Friday night at Utah. “It’s good to break through and see results,” he said. “We don’t want this to be a one-time thing, though. You want to keep playing the same way and go get one in Utah.”
Coming off two hard days of practice, it was a reward for the Nets to see their work and attitude pay off. “To see our organization lose 15, 16 in a row, I felt like the guys deserved more than that,” Lin said. “So to get this monkey off our back feels really, really good. It feels good just to see tangible results of your work sometimes.”
Lin was happy with the way he and Lopez combined to control the action down the stretch. Being a part of Lopez’s milestone was meaningful, too.
“I’m happy for him,” Lin said. “He’s just such a fun-loving guy who works hard and cares. People don’t realize how diligent and calculated he is with his work. I always respect anybody who puts in the amount of work he puts in. Ten thousand points, man. I’m glad I could at least be a part of it.”