Nets outlast Pacers in OT
Brooklyn figured out how to win without its most versatile offensive player Monday night.
Feed Brook Lopez early and often, keep Reggie Evans active on the glass and put the ball in Joe Johnson's hands with the game on the line.
It may need to keep that formula a while longer.
Lopez scored 25 points, Evans grabbed 22 rebounds and Johnson tied the score with a 10-foot bank shot to force overtime before closing it out with four straight free throws to give the Nets an 89-84 victory, their first in six tries at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
For the Nets, this was vindication.
''We wanted to come out tonight and make a statement,'' Johnson said after finishing with 17 points. ''We were just being very resilient. Guys were coming up big and making plays.''
Brooklyn (30-22) needed every one of those plays to turn things around.
They came into Monday night with three losses in four games, including a 111-86 shellacking at home Sunday. They had lost five straight in Indianapolis, one of the best home teams in the league this season, and had been struggling badly to score, too. Plus, they were missing guard Deron Williams, who was diagnosed with synovitis, an inflammation of the ankle joint linings. He received platelet rich plasma treatment on both ankles and isn't expected to return to the floor until after the All-Star break.
But without Williams, the Nets stayed focused.
They had only 11 turnovers, forced the normally proficient Pacers to shoot just 34.4 percent, limited All-Star forward Paul George to five points on 1-of-10 shooting, and rallied late in regulation in a game that looked all but lost. Then, in overtime, the Nets refused to let this one slip away.
''We played, we got down, we hustled, we got to the free-throw line and we battled them on the boards,'' interim coach P.J. Carelsimo said. ''The only good thing about getting killed by San Antonio was the next day we beat one of the better teams in the league.''
It was a miserable night for the Pacers (31-21).
George was out of sync all night and eventually fouled out with 1:03 left in regulation.
David West, Indiana's other big scorer, got poked in the eye by Lopez 60 seconds into the game. When he returned to start the second half, he didn't look like himself. He was just 2 of 11 from the field with seven points and six rebounds and missed three straight midrange shots at the end of regulation, the last a 14-footer that bounced off the front of the rim as time expired.
Instead, the Pacers have now followed their longest winning streak of the season (five) with two straight losses and their longest home winning streak (15) in more than a decade with back-to-back overtime losses. And Chicago's loss at San Antonio on Monday was the only thing that allowed them to retain the Central Division lead.
George Hill led the Pacers with 22 points and six assists while Lance Stephenson and Jeff Pendergraph each had 14. It was a season-high for Pendergraph, whose previous best was six.
Whether it was fatigue from this recent stretch, five games in eight days, or just an off-night, the Pacers were most frustrated by letting another one get away.
''If we make half the shots we missed we're in the 90s and our defense held them in the 70s for the most part,'' George lamented. ''Credit them. They came in and played a hard game.''
Brooklyn also dominated the game when it mattered most.
Indiana used a late 7-0 run to turn a 72-69 deficit into a 76-72 lead with 1:38 to go. But when George fouled out, the complexion of the game changed.
Evans, who scored just eight points, made 1 of 2 free throws to make it a one-possession game. West missed a 16-foot step-back jumper, and when D.J. Augustin was called for a foul, Gerald Wallace made 1 of 2 free throws to cut the lead to two. West followed that by missing a 17-footer and Johnson answered with a 10-foot bank shot to tie it.
West's next miss, at the buzzer, sent the game into overtime.
''Tough shooting night, one of those nights where we couldn't put the ball in the basket,'' Pacers coach Frank Vogel said.
Brooklyn made the Pacers pay for it.
After Roy Hibbert opened the overtime with a free throw, the Nets went on a 9-2 run to make it 85-79 with 45.2 seconds to go, and Johnson closed out the win by making four straight free throws.
''It was great. It was a complete team game from top to bottom,'' Lopez said. ''It was a good win tonight as we responded to their runs.''
Notes: Former Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Carl Erskine, who lives in nearby Anderson, Ind., played the national anthem on a harmonica for Brooklyn's inaugural trip to Bankers Life Fieldhouse. ... The Pacers may have played their final game without All-Star forward Danny Granger, who returned to full practice Sunday and could be back in uniform Wednesday against Charlotte. ... Brooklyn has failed to score 100 points in eight straight games. ... Indiana lost only three home games from Nov. 13 through Feb. 7, but has now lost twice at home in four days.