NEW YORK -- The Brooklyn Nets knew that their recent five-game win streak was merely window dressing, so they had something to prove Sunday night when they faced the red-hot Indiana Pacers at the Barclays Center.
"A lot of our wins lately have come against sub-par .500 teams," Nets All-Star point guard Deron Williams said. "We knew that this was a playoff team, which we've struggled against this year."
The Nets entered play Sunday 14-0 against teams with records under .500, but 7-15 against teams with winning marks.
The trend appeared likely to continue early when the Pacers took a 77-69 lead with 10:56 remaining, but the Nets then went on a 17-0 run, keyed by the play of center Brook Lopez.
"We knew that they were a contender, a playoff team, and we wanted to go out and prove ourselves a little," said Lopez, who rebounded from an awful start to score nine points in the decisive surge, leading the Nets to a 97-86 victory.
Brooklyn (22-15) earned its sixth consecutive win, improving to 8-1 under interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo. The Pacers (23-15) saw their four-game winning streak end. Indiana had won 18 of 20 this season when taking a lead into the fourth quarter.
The Pacers led 75-69 going into the final period, and they pushed the lead to eight on a power move from Ian Mahinmi with 10:56 remaining.
The Nets scored the game's next 17 points over a span of 4:14, with Lopez leading the way. He entered the fourth quarter shooting 1-for-8 from the floor, but he hit two big corner jumpers and had two big dunks in the late run. Lopez finished the night with 15 points and nine rebounds.
"I knew that I had a tough time through the first three quarters," Lopez said. "I just wanted to come out in the fourth quarter, play defense, block shots, rebound. If I'm open like that, I have to shoot it. I think we were all more aggressive in the fourth."
Williams, who suffered a thigh contusion in Friday's win over the Phoenix Suns, scored 12 of his team-high 22 points in the first quarter. Williams also had nine assists. Joe Johnson added 20 points for the winners.
"I was very impressed that he was able to do as well as he did," Johnson said of Williams. "Before the game, I asked him and he said he didn't know if he could go. He showed he's a real trooper and leader, leading us to victory."
Williams pointed to the Nets' defense as the key to the comeback.
"We really stepped up our defensive intensity in that last quarter," Williams said. "We knew we had to get stops to give us a chance to win the game. It was a big win for us because we've struggled against the better teams and we've also struggled here at home at times."
The Nets outscored the Pacers 28-11 in the fourth quarter. The 11 points represented the Pacers' lowest scoring total for one quarter this season. Indiana made just two of 18 shots to start the period.
"We can't play better defensively than we did," said Carlesimo, who is cementing his position as the team's head coach with the second-best coaching start in franchise history. "The defense fuels us. It's the reason why we're doing so well. We're getting stops, then getting out in transition and then going to the free-throw line. A lot of it all starts with defense and rebounding. That's the key."
The Nets connected on 25 of 31 attempts from the free-throw line, compared to just 10 of 12 foul shooting for Indiana.
"I think when we get 12 free throws and they get 31, it's hard to overcome," said Pacers forward Paul George, who had 15 points and 12 rebounds after missing Saturday's game due to a bout with the flu. "We have to do a better job of playing without fouling. I thought we could have won this game, but some things you don't have control over."
Pacers forward David West scored a game-high 27 points. Former Net Gerald Green had 15 off the bench for the Pacers.
"We just stopped executing and lost our composure," West said of the collapse. "We let them get going early and once they got the ball rolling, the game slipped out of our reach. We had opportunities, but we lost our composure and couldn't get it done."
Indiana head coach Frank Vogel praised his team.
"I'm really proud of our guys for their grit and their toughness," Vogel said. "I thought they fought extremely hard and played their tails off. Give credit to the Nets. They were clearly the more aggressive team. We had some good looks (in the fourth quarter) and the shots didn't go down. We played the second night of a back-to-back and I'm very proud of them."
The Nets led by as many as nine in the first quarter. Williams capped a 16-1 run with a long 3-pointer from the right corner, giving Brooklyn a 27-18 lead with 47 seconds left in the period.
The Pacers dominated the action in the second quarter, outscoring the Nets 28-19 in the period to take a 49-46 halftime lead. West had 15 points at the half, and George, who was questionable before the game due to the flu, had 10.
Playing their sixth game in nine days, the Pacers shot 50 percent from the floor before intermission, while the Nets managed to connect on 42 percent in the first half. Indiana wound up at 42.2 percent for the game, and Brooklyn finished at 40.7 percent.
Williams lost his shooting touch in the second quarter, making just one basket.
In the fourth quarter, the Nets cut their deficit to 77-75 with 9:30 to go on consecutive 16-foot jumpers from Lopez from almost exactly the same spot in the left corner.
Johnson's 25-footer with 8:50 left put the Nets up 78-77, their first lead since the second quarter.
The Nets then hit five straight free throws, two from Lopez and three from Williams, to take an 83-77 lead. Lopez canned a 20-footer to extend the lead to 85-77 with 7:28 left. Vogel drew a technical foul in frustration, and Williams made the free throw, his 32nd consecutive made foul shot.
"I think we just took the initiative to buckle down defensively at the right time," Johnson said. "They were playing well. We were playing well. We just wanted to play well down the stretch."
NOTES: With their forward line decimated by injuries, the Nets signed a familiar face to a 10-day contract: Damion James. James, who was acquired by the Nets on draft night in 2010 from the Atlanta Hawks after the Hawks took the University of Texas product in the first round (24th overall), had two injury-filled seasons with the Nets. James played in just 25 games in his first year and seven in his second year. He's had a series of foot injuries and surgeries. He averaged 4.5 points and 3.7 rebounds during his stint with the Nets. The team did not pick up the third-year option on James' contract after last season, and he became a free agent. The 6-foot-7 James was playing for Bakersfield in the NBDL, averaging 15.5 points and 7.3 rebounds over 17 games. He was in uniform Sunday night for the Nets. ... Starting power forward Gerald Wallace missed the game with bruised ribs after suffering a hard fall in a collision with P.J. Tucker of the Phoenix Suns Sunday night. ... The Pacers are still without All-Star Danny Granger, who is battling a knee injury. ... Brooklyn native Lance Stephenson started the game for the Pacers, but he suffered a foot injury in the early going and sat out the remainder of the game. He finished scoreless in six minutes of action.