The Brooklyn Nets picked up a 2nd straight win Friday night, eliminating the Los Angeles Lakers from playoff contention with a hard-fought victory.
More from Nothin' But Nets
- Nets star Mikal Bridges labeled top ‘trade target’ for serious title contender
- LAST CHANCE: Get $2,500 Bonus for Any NBA Draft Bet Before FanDuel Promo Expires Sunday
- Bet365 New Jersey Bonus: Bet $1, Win $200 GUARANTEED on ANY NBA Finals Bet Tonight!
- BetRivers NJ Promo: Bet $500 on the NBA/NHL Finals, Get a Bonus-Bet Refund if You Miss!
- DraftKings New Jersey Promo: Bet $5, Win $150 INSTANTLY on ANY NBA Playoff Game!
But it meant a lot more than just that for Brooklyn.
With the win — their second straight to improve to 2-3 on their seven-game road trip — the Nets (38-36) maintained their breathing room in the race for one of the final three playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
Brooklyn’s magic number is now six to clinch its first playoff berth in four years, with the Orlando Magic (35-38) now 2½ games behind the Nets, who have eight games remaining while the Magic have nine to go.
The win allows the Nets to climb within a half-game of the sixth-place Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference playoff race and with the Miami Heat being annihilated on the road 116-87 by the Milwaukee Bucks, seventh-place Brooklyn increased its lead over the Heat to two games.
So, sure … have your fun with the DLo getting his revenge and knocking out the Lakers takes.
The Nets have bigger things to focus on.
It was not an aesthetically pleasing game on either side. Rather, it was a street fight from which the Nets were able to emerge with a hard-fought victory despite shooting just 40.2 percent overall and being absolutely crushed on the glass by a 59-47 margin, allowing 19 offensive rebounds.
Neither team held a double-digit lead at any point in the game, a contest in which there were 16 ties and 23 lead changes and more momentum swings than one could count.
It was also a night for odd things to happen.
The Nets managed to make Lakers center JaVale McGee into the second coming of Wilt Chamberlain/Kareem Abdul-Jabbar/Shaquille O’Neal (take your pick). Los Angeles managed to forget that Joe Harris is the best 3-point shooter in the NBA right now.
McGee finished with career-highs of 33 points and 20 rebounds — 12 on the offensive window — to go with six blocks for Los Angeles. Harris went 6-for-8 from deep and led the Nets with 26 points on the night.
Brooklyn led 44-43 at the half and appeared to be ready to deliver the knockout blow in the third quarter when DeMarre Carroll — who made his first start of the season for the Nets — and Russell canned consecutive 3-pointers and the Nets ran their lead out to nine midway through the third quarter.
But the Lakers kept hammering away and the teams spent the latter stages of the third period and the first part of the fourth playing ping pong with the lead.
Harris converted a strong drive and finish with 5:28 remaining that put Brooklyn up 98-97 to jump start an 11-2 run that put Brooklyn up eight, 107-99, with 2:48 left.
The Lakers didn’t go away, but the Nets made enough plays to stay in front. Los Angeles had a chance with the ball down three, 109-106, in the final minute after Russell missed a 3-pointer, but LeBron James was well guarded by Carroll and Jarrett Allen as he tried to find space to drive.
James slipped and lost the ball out of bounds with 22.8 seconds left and Spencer Dinwiddie split a pair of free throws with 17.1 seconds left that essentially iced it for Brooklyn.
The Nets were just 37-for-92 on the night, although they were 16-for-42 (38.1 percent) from long range. Russell had six of Brooklyn’s 14 turnovers while James had eight of the Lakers’ 16 giveaways, with each team scoring 18 points off the mistakes.
The Lakers, meanwhile, hit just 38.5 percent (37-for-96) and made only 9-of-36 (25 percent) from deep while outscoring Brooklyn in the paint 56-42. Brooklyn, however, did a good job of pushing the pace at Los Angeles and wound up with a 26-21 edge in fast-break points.
Despite giving 19 offensive rebounds to just 11 of their own, the Nets also held an 18-16 advantage in second-chance points.
Russell finished with 21 points, 13 assists and three steals, giving him a career-best three consecutive games with at least 20 points and 10 dimes. Ed Davis had 14 points and 15 rebounds and Allen went for 13 points and 11 boards. Dinwiddie scored 19 points and Carroll ended up with 15.
James finished a rebound shy of a triple-double, ending with 25 points and 14 assists, but shooting just 8-for-25 and going 1-for-7 from long range. Kyle Kuzma, meanwhile, needed 19 shots to score 18 points for Los Angeles.
Brooklyn will have the weekend off before closing out the Western part of the road trip Monday night at Portland.
Here are three takeaways from an important victory over the Lakers.