SACRAMENTO — No one is happier about the trade that sent DeMarcus Cousins from the Kings to the Pelicans over the All-Star break. As Jeremy Lin said, “It’s one less thing to worry about, which is very nice because he’s almost 30 [points] and 10 [rebounds].”
Without Cousins dominating the paint, the Nets took an early 15-point lead and never trailed on their way to a 109-100 victory that snapped their 16-game losing streak three short of the franchise record. It was only their second victory of 2017 and their third road win of the season.
An 8-0 surge that included four points each from Isaiah Whitehead and former King Quincy Acy gave the Nets a 13-point lead with 7:56 to play, but the Kings put together an 11-4 surge to cut the deficit to 99-93 on a jumper by Tyreke Evans with 2:34 left. After a turnover by Caris LeVert, Ty Lawson’s layup with 30.2 seconds left cut the Nets’ lead to 103-99, and they were forced to call their final timeout in the backcourt with 25.8 seconds to go but managed to hold on.
Brook Lopez led the Nets (10-49) with 24 points and seven rebounds; Lin added 17 points and five assists in 20 minutes, his longest stint in three games back from a hamstring injury; Whitehead scored 14 off the bench, and LeVert added 13 points and seven boards. Six Kings scored in double figures led by 16 from Buddy Hield and 15 each from Lawson and Evans. The Kings made 11 of 22 threes.
Lopez entered the game 10 points shy of the 10,000-point plateau on the verge of becoming only the second player in Nets history to cross that threshold with the organization behind all-time scoring leader Buck Williams with 10,440 points. Williams reached that plateau in his 600th game, but Lopez was playing just his 541st game for the Nets.
The 7-foot center wasn’t even aware he was approaching 10,000 points until informed by reporters at shootaround Wednesday morning. “It’s obviously a huge honor,” Lopez said. “I’m proud I’ve been in the league for this long and can keep doing the thing I love year in and year out. I think I have a lot longer to go. So, it’s definitely a great benchmark.”
The notion of achieving such a lofty status in his ninth season with the Nets was a bit surreal for Lopez. “It’s pretty bizarre for myself,” he said. “It’s definitely what you dream of when you’re a little kid. For me, it’s crazy that I’ve been in the league at this point for nine seasons.”
Considering he was held to only nine points in the Nets’ 16th straight loss Saturday night at Golden State, the real priority for the Nets was to get Lopez going early against a Kings team adjusting to the loss of Cousins. The Nets jumped out to an early 21-10 lead, making eight of their first nine shots, and Lopez scored seven of his nine first-quarter points in that span.
But the Kings caught fire from three-point range as rookie Hield, who was one of three players acquired from New Orleans, led a comeback to tie the game at 35 early in the second quarter. But Joe Harris responded with a three for the Nets, and they kept a nose in front.
With 4:17 left in the first half, Lopez dunked to reach 10,001 points, and he had 14 points by halftime to help the Nets maintain a 57-54 lead. A 9-2 surge at the end of the third quarter, including four points from Sean Kilpatrick restored an 81-72 cushion going to the fourth quarter as the Nets held the Kings to just 18 points in the third.