Nets beat Pacers, assured of at least No. 4 seed
Deron Williams had 33 points and 14 assists to lead the Nets to a 117-109 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Friday night. They guaranteed themselves the No. 4 seed in the East and pulled within two games of the Pacers for No. 3.
"We could still get the 3 seed," Williams said. "We have to hope for Indiana to lose some games, but it's still possible. I think we have a good thing going right now."
The Pacers (49-30) fell three games behind the New York Knicks for the No. 2 seed.
Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson each had 24 points for the Nets (47-32), who have won four of their last five games.
David West had 26 points and nine rebounds, and Paul George had 21 for the Pacers, who have lost three of four.
The Nets set the tone early and right from the start.
The Pacers took their only lead of the game when Lance Stephenson hit a 3-pointer with 5 minutes left, but the Pacers couldn't hold on.
"We have teams come into our building and really play comfortable," George said. "We want to defend our home court."
Jerry Stackhouse tied the game from the free throw line and the Nets took a 104-101 lead when Johnson hit a 3-pointer.
George hit a 3-pointer of his own to tie it again and Stackhouse hit a 3 to make it 107-104 with 2:56 left.
The Pacers trailed by as much as 24 and couldn't duplicate a similar comeback they had in a win over Cleveland on Tuesday.
The Nets took a 69-50 lead by halftime, the most points they scored in a half this season and the most given up by Indiana.
Williams had 25 points in the half, including four 3-pointers.
"I just got free a couple times and I hit a couple of baskets and started feeling it," he said.
Added interim coach P.J. Carlesimo: "I thought he played unbelievably well. He just played great and, as usual, he played good defense."
The Nets took a 21-point lead late in the second quarter when Johnson hit a 3-pointer and Williams hit back-to-back 3s to make it 67-46 with 1:02 left.
"Clearly we have to have a sense of urgency at the start of the game," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "We are battling back, but we have to play with that sense of urgency in the first quarter."
The Nets shot 71.4 percent in the first quarter alone. The Pacers shot over 50 percent but couldn't keep up.
When it wasn't Williams, it was Lopez, who had 16 points in the first half on 7-of-8 shooting. Johnson had 11 points by halftime on 5-of-7 shooting.
Johnson and Lopez put together an 8-2 run for the Nets midway through the first quarter to take a 22-12 lead with 4:29 left in the first quarter.
The Nets opened a 74-52 lead early in the second half before the Pacers slowly chipped away and took the lead late.
Vogel said before the game the Pacers haven't taken their eyes off that No. 2 spot. But it's a tough stretch for the remainder of the regular season, especially after dropping Friday's game.
"I think as a group we should be very concerned," West said. "We're not showing the ability to play complete games and at this time of year we should be focusing on tweaks we're going to make as the year comes to a close."
The Pacers go on the road to New York on Sunday and Boston Tuesday before wrapping up the regular season at home against Philadelphia.
NOTES: Nets F Gerald Wallace was out with a lower left leg contusion. ... Keith Bogans started after missing two straight games with a light lower back. ... Hill needs three rebounds to reach 1,000 career rebounds. ... The Pacers scored 35 points in the third quarter to match their most in any third quarter this season.