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Nets defeat Pacers to jump back into eighth playoff spot

Joe Johnson of the Brooklyn Nets celebrates with

Joe Johnson of the Brooklyn Nets celebrates with teammates Brook Lopez and Jarrett Jack after hitting a three-point shot late in a game against the Indiana Pacers at Barclays Center on Tuesday, March 31, 2015. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Prosperity and the Nets simply don't mesh together all that easily.

It's been that way all season, notably whenever they've searched for an elusive fourth straight win. They've had only four chances to do that this season, the latest opportunity coming Tuesday night in a pivotal matchup with the Pacers.

So when they blew a 19-point second-quarter lead and found themselves staring at a four-point deficit in the third quarter, there was an aura of "here we go again" and a palpable sense of anxiety wafting throughout Barclays Center.

But instead of going belly-up and succumbing to Indiana's pressure, the Nets dug deep inside themselves, making nothing but clutch plays offensively and defensively in the closing minutes to secure a 111-106 victory and push their win streak to a season-best four games.

"It was huge," Deron Williams said. "This game meant a lot to us. It meant a lot to them with how the seeding is going right now and tiebreaker wise, this gives us the tiebreaker over them. So this was a huge game for us. We gave up the lead, and at times this year, we probably would have buckled. But we didn't. We kept going and kind of shrugged it off.

"This was a great team win. There was a lot of guys that played well."

Joe Johnson hit two huge buckets in the closing minutes, keying the final surge to help propel the Nets (33-40) into sole possession of eighth place in the Eastern Conference with nine games remaining and to a 2-1 season series edge over the Pacers.

Indiana (32-42) shaved the Nets' 12-point fourth-quarter advantage to three points on George Hill's reverse layup with 2:11 left, but that's when Johnson left his imprints all over this one. Johnson, who posted 21 points, six rebounds and four assists, sank an 18-foot step-back jumper off an isolation play to catapult the Nets to a 105-100 edge and nailed a three-pointer with the shot clock set to expire on Brooklyn's ensuing possession for an eight-point advantage, basically stiff-arming the Pacers, who were led by Hill's 28 points and six assists.

"We are playing together and we are not quitting in games," said Brook Lopez, who followed up his conference player of the week honors with 24 points, 11 rebounds and a pair of blocks. "They respond, they make runs and we are doing the same thing right back. We know what we are capable of and we are all very confident."

It was certainly oozing early on, when the Nets canned 15 of their initial 24 shots and a 33-15 first quarter. They were moving well without the ball, not hesitating at all to find the open man, and Lopez and Williams had the two-man game going. Lopez had 14 points on 10 shots in the opening quarter and Williams' eight points and five assists also aided in setting the tone.

But they let Indiana erase all those good vibes rapidly in the second quarter, particularly when Nets coach Lionel Hollins went to his bench. The Pacers drained 14 of 21 attempts to fuel a 39-point explosion.

"Man, just the resiliency that we showed in that fourth quarter," Johnson said, "we were able to get the lead and we just kept coming up with big plays offensively and getting stops defensively and that's huge. Yeah, earlier in the year, it may have been a different outcome. But tonight we were able to pull it out."

Notes & quotes: Thaddeus Young, returning after missing the previous two games with a left knee strain, started and had eight points on 4 of 11 shooting and seven rebounds in 39:25. "A lot of them were off to the left or off to the right," Young said of his shots. "It's all just about getting back out there on the court and getting back into a rhythm. I'll be fine."

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