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Brooklyn wants playoffs! Nets win fourth straight, increase playoff chances over Indiana

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Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Player of the Week. Player of the Month. Whatever he may be. He's certainly the MVP of the Brooklyn Nets when they've needed him most.

In yet another crucial game for playoff implications, Brook Lopez went off for 24 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks and one steal of 11-of-17 shooting, leading the Nets to a 111-106 victory over the Indiana Pacers. It's his 14th double-double of the season and his seventh straight game with 20 or more points. It brings up the debate as to whether or not Lopez is the leader of this team. By definition of a leader, he certainly has been.

The Nets are now 8-2 in their last 10 games and have notched their first four-game win streak of the season. They also moved a half-game past the Boston Celtics for the eighth seed, and a half-game out of the seventh seed behind the Miami Heat. They're only two games back of the slumping Milwaukee Bucks in the loss column..

Back to the game though.

It was your typical Nets. They were up by as much as 19 in the first quarter containing beautiful ball movement and excellent offensive sets. That same 19-point lead disappeared in the second quarter after Indiana outscored Brooklyn 39-24 in the quarter which cut the deficit down to three by the end of the half.

At that point, Lopez had 20 points. For reasons beyond all logic, he only took one shot in the third quarter.

Perhaps it was the reason for the Nets' inability to take control. In the absence of Lopez's stellar offense, Joe Johnson stepped up and scored 11 points in the third.

Joe was quiet throughout the fourth quarter... up until the Nets needed him that is. Joe hit a step back jumper to put Brooklyn up five with a little over a minute remaining. Then, to add salt to Indiana's wound, Johnson nailed the dagger three with 15.4 seconds remaining. Nets up eight. Crowd going berserk. Game over.

Johnson finished his night with 21 points, six rebounds and four assists. It's his third straight game with 20 or more points.

The dagger wouldn't have been possible without the tremendous defensive effort from Brooklyn on the prior possession. The Nets locked up Indiana and forced Roy Hibbert to airball a three-pointer as the shot clock expired. The Nets advanced the ball and Joe did his usual thing.

It was a pretty incredible, grind it out win. Earlier in the season if the Nets squandered a 19-point lead, they would've taken themselves out of it and probably lost the game. This time, here in late March, the same situation occurred and they fought their way out of it.

Indiana shot 45% from the field, while Brooklyn shot 50% from the field and 50% from three, while committing only eight turnovers.

Alan Anderson was again a crucial piece to the Nets' success with 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting. He's adapted to a 3-D role that he earned by covering the other teams' best players and hitting down the three ball at a pretty efficient rate.

The Nets went with Jarrett Jack for most of the fourth quarter after Deron Williams picked up his fifth foul with a little less than five minutes left in the final stanza. Jack put up some questionable shots, but finished with nine points in the quarter to help carry the scoring load. Despite the foul trouble, Williams finished with a near triple-double of 11 points, eight rebounds and six assists in 30 minutes of action.

For Indiana, George Hill led the way with 28 points and six rebounds, while David West was the only other Pacer starter to score in double digits with 14. C.J. Miles left the game in the first quarter.

"Let’s put it as it is: We’re more together," Lionel Hollins said, trying to explain the turnaround. "We care more about each other. When you’re as one, when you have adversity, you just pull together and keep fighting."

Hollins also addressed managing minutes as the Nets look at a possible post-season...

"I don’t try to manage minutes and it’s surprising to me that it’s become a huge thing in our league. I can’t speak why coaches do it, I don’t know why they do it. I don’t know why players would want to do it. I would want to play every game and I would want to play all the minutes because I don’t know how long my career will be. I don’t think managing your minutes lengthens your career by one minute."

He might have been talking about Thaddeus Young who returned after a left knee sprain and played 39 minutes, finishing with eight points, seven rebounds and four assists.

"The good thing is I'm a vet," Young said. "So I kind of know how to play and how to get myself back in the game.  I wasn't making shots, but I was doing other things, which was playing defense, trying to rebound."

The Nets look to whip out the brooms and sweep the Knicks in the season series Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. Remember if you're in attendance, rock the neon and tag us or The Brooklyn Game in your tweets. Bring that same spirit that Jeffrey Gamblero brought to the games every single night.

For more on the Indiana Pacers, check them out at Indy Cornrows