Last Updated: 8:28 PM, January 13, 2013
Posted: 8:28 PM, January 13, 2013
Most of the success the Nets have enjoyed during their first two weeks under interim coach P.J. Carlesimo has come against teams with losing records.
That’s why Carlesimo pointed to Sunday night’s game against the Pacers – the beginning of a stretch where the Nets will see eight teams with winning records in their next 11 games – as a crucial one.
“I think it’s a huge game, because they’re one of the better teams in the entire league, and they’re ahead of us in the Eastern Conference” Carlesimo said.
The Nets then went out and played like it was a huge game, using a 17-0 run early in the fourth quarter to take the lead for the first time in the second half and went on to record a 97-86 victory over the Pacers in front of 16,499 inside Barclays Center.
The win was the sixth in a row for the Nets, giving them their longest winning streak of the season, as well as improving the team’s record to 8-1 since Carlesimo took over as interim coach.
That outcome looked very much in doubt at the start of the fourth quarter after Pacers center Ian Mahinmi scored to give Indiana a 77-69 lead with 10:57 to go. But the Nets (22-15) then proceeded to score 17 unanswered points against the league’s best defensive team, led by several excellent drives by Deron Williams that either led to points for himself or for either Brook Lopez or Joe Johnson, as the trio outscored the Pacers 20-11 by themselves in the fourth quarter.
The three stars combined to score all 17 points during the run, capped by a Lopez jumper from the top of the key and a subsequent free throw from Williams after a technical foul on Pacers coach Frank Vogel pushed the lead to 86-77 with 7:29 remaining, a bulge the Nets would never relinquish.
The Nets, who were already without Gerald Wallace after he suffered bruised ribs in Friday’s win over Phoenix, weren’t sure what they would get from Deron Williams, either. Williams, who was kneed in the right quad early in the third quarter Friday, was listed as questionable prior to the game, and Carlesimo even admitted he felt Williams “probably shouldn’t go, but he loosened up and wants to try it.”
It was a good thing for the Nets that he did, as Williams was easily the team’s best player in the first half and through much of the game, finishing with a team-high 22 points and nine assists.
Wlliams came out on fire, knocking down five of his first seven shots – including hitting both of his attempts from behind the 3-point arc – to score 12 points and help the Nets jump out to an early 27-21 lead after one.
But after a C.J. Watson jumper pushed the Nets’ lead to 37-30 midway through the second quarter, the Pacers closed the first half with a 19-9 run led by their imposing frontcourt of Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert, which combined to score 14 points during that stretch.
Things didn’t get much better early in the third quarter, as the Nets struggled to get their offense going against Indiana’s defense. The Nets opened the quarter 3-for-12 from the field, allowing the Pacers to stretch their lead out to 67-55 after former Net Gerald Green sunk a pair of free throws with 5:30 remaining in the quarter.
But the Nets began to chip away at Indiana’s lead, with Joe Johnson first hitting a 3-pointer and then drawing a foul on an attempted three on the following possession, allowing him to single-handedly cut the deficit in half, and it remained there heading into the fourth, with the Nets trailing 75-69 to set up their game-winning surge in the fourth.