Career highs by Lopez and Yi give Nets 2 in row
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)—The New Jersey Nets aren’t going to be the worst team in NBA history.
Brook Lopez(notes) had a career-high 37 points and Yi Jianlian(notes) had a career-best 31 and the Nets eliminated any chance of setting a record for fewest wins in a season, beating the Detroit Pistons 118-110 on Friday night for their first winning streak of the season.
“We’re smiling,” said point guard Devin Harris(notes), who had 12 assists. “It’s good to get two wins in a row, but we’re not satisfied. We want to continue to be better and finish the season on a high note.”
Even if New Jersey (9-63) loses its final 10 games, it can do no worse than tie the league mark for the worst record (9-73), set by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1972-73.
Bottom line: one more Nets win and the 76ers keep their record.
“It’s cool, I guess,” said Lopez, who was unstoppable underneath, hitting 14 of 17 from the field while adding 10 rebounds. “Like I’ve been telling these guys, it’s finally paying off. Hopefully, we’ll continue streaking.”
The Nets’ point total and their 57.1 percent shooting from the field were season highs and it came in a game where they trailed by 13 points early in the first quarter.
Yi was just as hot as Lopez. The Chinese Olympian was 12 of 16 from the field, hitting mostly jumpers.
The two stepped up in the final quarter with Lopez scoring 12 of the Nets’ 38 points and Yi adding nine. New Jersey was 10 of 15 shots from the field with the game in the balance.
“It’s a big step for us,” Lopez said of the play of the Nets’ big men. “We’ve been really working to gel together and to improve to a point where you have us both in the game at crunch time.”
Detroit gave the Nets and their fans some anxious moments down the stretch, cutting a 12-point deficit with 2:47 to play to four points with 47.3 seconds to go. The Pistons then got the ball back on an 8-second violation.
With the tension high and many wondering whether the Nets would find a way to blow it, they came up with a big play—or the Pistons provided one.
Richard Hamilton(notes), who had 18 points, then missed a long 3-pointer and Keyon Dooling(notes) made two free throws to ice the Nets first back-to-back wins since April 11 and 13, games 80 and 81 of last season.
“Anytime where your four and five go 26 for 33 and get 68 points, you’re just asking for trouble, especially the way they shot the basketball,” Prince said. “I don’t think Yi missed in the second half (7 of 9) and what was nice was their guys kept looking for him and harping on him to shoot because they knew he was in a good rhythm. Both those guys were tremendous.”
Jarvis Hayes(notes) gave New Jersey the lead for good, hitting consecutive 3-pointers late in the third quarter to snap a 69-all tie. Yi added a 3-pointer late in the quarter to keep New Jersey ahead, 80-77, entering the final 12 minutes.
After a basket by Stuckey closed the gap to a point, New Jersey went on a 12-4 spurt with Yi hitting three straight jumpers after Williams started the run with a 3-pointer and a dunk.
The Pistons hit 11 of their first 15 shots in jumping to a 23-10 lead with Prince scoring 8 of his 12 first-quarter points in the run.
Yi helped the Nets get back into the game, scoring six points in a 14-4 spurt in the closing minutes of the quarter.
NOTES: Pistons C Ben Wallace(notes) missed his third straight game with sore knees, while teammate Chris Wilcox(notes) was out with a hamstring injury. …New Jersey is now 5-32 at home. …The Pistons are 7-29 on the road. The Pistons won the season series 3-1. Lopez’s previous high 32. Yi’s previous best was 29. It marked the first time since Dec. 19, 2008 that two Nets scored at least 30 points in the same game—Vince Carter(notes) 34 and Harris had 41.