The New Jersey Nets got back on track recently thanks to their strong play late in games. After a letdown in their last outing, they’ll try to regain their momentum Monday when they host the Indiana Pacers.
Following a four-game losing streak from Dec. 22-27, the Nets (16-20) won five of their next six without getting outscored in the fourth quarter of any of those contests. They held opponents to 21.3 points per in the final quarter during that stretch.
New Jersey led by five points heading into the fourth quarter Saturday, but was outscored 37-21 en route to its second loss in seven games, 109-98 on the road to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“I think it was surprising for us,” said Nets point guard Jason Kidd, who is playing through outside distractions after filing for divorce from his wife last Tuesday. “In the last six games or so, we’ve buckled down in the fourth quarter. (Saturday) you have to give Minnesota credit. The game was right there for us. When we were up 10, we needed to push it to 15 and put them away.”
Kidd did his best to do that with 24 points, 13 assists and six rebounds, falling four boards shy of his second straight triple-double. He is averaging 23.5 points in the last two games, nearly 10 more than his season mark. Team leading scorer Vince Carter added 24 points despite being bothered with foul trouble.
The Nets allowed more than 100 points for the first time in nine games, but will look to tighten up their defense when they return home. New Jersey has won a season-high three straight games at Continental Airlines Arena, holding its opponents to 88.0 points in that span.
The Pacers (20-17) have won five of their last six road games after beginning the season 5-10 there. They are trying to get back to the .500 mark away from home for the first time since they were 5-5.
Indiana is coming off a 115-113 overtime loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Friday, which snapped an overall season-high three-game winning streak. The Pacers couldn’t hold on to a six-point lead with less than three minutes left in regulation.
“It’s disappointing to come out on the short end because we played hard,” said Pacers coach Rick Carlisle, whose team lost despite scoring its most points of the season. “We fought hard and we were in a position to win.”
Jermaine O’Neal’s 26 points and nine rebounds led Indiana, while Jamaal Tinsley added 17 points and 11 assists for his second straight double-double. Stephen Jackson scored 22 points as did reserve Danny Granger, who helped the Pacers’ bench outscore the Dallas reserves by a 40-9 margin.
For the season, Indiana is receiving an average of 29.6 points per game from its bench.
The Nets took the first meeting between these teams, 100-91 on Nov. 17, led by Carter’s 28 points. They also eliminated Indiana in six games in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs last season.