PHILADELPHIA — The “Brook-Lin” sobriquet describing the Nets’ leading players seemed destined to be little more than a marketing hook this season as Jeremy Lin sat out 45 games with hamstring injuries while the team floundered. But Brook Lopez held the locker room together until Lin returned following the All-Star break, and suddenly, a turnaround has taken hold.
Instead of playing out the string, the Nets are building a foundation for next season, and the “Brook-Lin” pairing is proving to be more than a catchy nickname.
When Lin converted a three-point play just before the halftime buzzer Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Center, it gave the Nets 81 points, tying a 34-year-old franchise record, on their way to a 141-118 blowout of the 76ers. It gave the Nets (19-59) their first three-game winning streak of the season.
They reached the century mark with 5:06 left in the third quarter on a Lin jumper that produced a season-high 35-point lead that reached 39. Lin and Lopez each scored 16 points and sat down for good with 4:20 left in the third.
Coach Kenny Atkinson credited Lin and Lopez with getting everyone involved in the first-half explosion. Commenting on the overall turnaround, he added, “I think the fans can appreciate it that they’ve seen progress. That’s what the fans want to see; Sean (GM Marks) wants to see that and the owner wants to see it. That’s the real positive, not even the wins, just that we’re playing better.”
Six other Nets scored in double figures — K.J. McDaniels (14), Archie Goodwin (14), Sean Kilpatrick (13), Spencer Dinwiddie (13), Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (12) and Randy Foye (12). They shot 70 percent in the first half and were 16-for-31 overall from three-point range. Timothe Luwawu-Cabbarrot’s 19 points led the Sixers (28-50).
Lopez is nearing the franchise scoring record at the end of his ninth season, but it was vital for him to produce with Lin. “We truly believe in each other,” Lopez said.
“It’s all about building for the future. The growth is really a beautiful thing. I think our team’s confidence keeps growing. I think everyone believes that we have something special here.”
Since the calendar turned to March, the Nets have gone 10-10, clear progress for virtually a quarter of the season.
“It’s definitely big,” Lin said. “Part of me is just human nature (to say), ‘I want more.’ But it’s learning to be grateful, and I’m thinking, ‘Man, we’ve come a long way.’ You don’t always know what the future is going to look like, but you just keep trusting everything.”
The season may be winding down, but it’s as if Lopez and Lin are just getting started together and trying to squeeze all the value they can out of the remaining few games.
“It’s huge,” Lopez said of the turnaround. “We’ve been saying it, but we’ve been great at following through. It won’t be officially done until the 12th, but we’ve been doing a good job so far. We can’t have any falloff. It’s going to be great to go into this offseason with continuity.”
Lin and Lopez said the fact the Nets have shown no quit is as important as the improved record. “I would say the number one thing that it shows me is character,” Lin said. “You see us who have nothing to play for from the outside looking in, and we’re still playing a lot of teams who are right there in the playoffs.
“That shows character by these guys. They’re not folding, they’re not mailing it in. Somebody with that attitude will just continue to get better, and that’s what we’re hoping for.”