Brook Lopez’s jumper at buzzer gives Nets 98-96 win over Pistons (VIDEO)

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NEW YORK (AP) While his twin brother was throwing punches, Brook Lopez landed a blow that really hurt.

Lopez made a jumper as time expired to give the Brooklyn Nets a 98-96 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday night.

He had heard even before he ended the game about what happened in Toronto, where Robin Lopez was ejected along with the RaptorsSerge Ibaka for fighting.

“Well, the Lopez twins were just both doing what we do tonight,” Lopez said. “He was doing his dirty job … and I was playing real basketball.”

The Pistons, fighting for a playoff spot, wiped out a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter to tie it at 96 on Tobias Harris‘ follow shot with 2.4 seconds left.

Lopez then took the inbounds pass moving left, dribbled toward the baseline and made the shot to cap a 29-point night.

Harris had 24 points for the Pistons, who dropped a game back of Miami for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope finished with 19. Andre Drummond had 13 points and 17 rebounds, but he left midway through the fourth quarter after appearing to injure his knee.

“It’s frustrating,” Harris said. “We came here and expected to win. We needed this win, and they played like they needed it more than us.”

After allowing 31 points in the first quarter, the Nets limited the Pistons to 34 over the next two, opening a 74-65 lead. Brooklyn got the first basket of the fourth to take its first double-digit lead and led by eight with 4 1/2 minutes remaining before Detroit tied it with a 13-5 spurt.

Ish Smith was the catalyst, scoring 12 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter as struggling starter Reggie Jackson watched from the bench. But the Pistons couldn’t complete the comeback and lost for the fourth time in five games.

“In the locker room, the guys had some stuff to say themselves,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “Somebody said I hope this is a wake-up call and I almost started laughing. I mean we’re 71 games in. A wake-up call? Come on, we’ve been doing this all year.”

The Nets, playing without starting point guard Jeremy Lin because of a sprained right ankle, snapped a two-game losing streak.


Pistons: Detroit opened a four-game road trip. … Jackson finished with seven points on 3-for-9 shooting and two assists.

Nets: Spencer Dinwiddie started for Lin and finished with 10 points and eight assists. The Nets improved to 2-16 with him in the starting lineup. … The Nets improved to 5-7 in March, their best month of the season. Brooklyn (14-56) was 4-9 in November.


Van Gundy understands why coaches rest healthy players, though he doesn’t believe in it and said he doesn’t know whether 82 games is too many.

“It is a little bit amazing to me that we tout all the time how much better job we do taking care of our players. So years ago it was commercial travel, get up at 4:30 in the morning, get to the airport, play a couple of back-to-back-to-backs during the year. There were no nutrition experts, there were no sleep experts and those guys played 82 games, 40-plus minutes a night every single night,” he said.

“Now we have all of these things, so we take care of people better and yet they can do less. So I don’t know. I mean we supposedly condition people better, they take better care of their bodies, we make their travel easier, but they can’t do as much. I don’t know, to me something’s missing, but that’s just me. I’m probably not smart enough to figure out why that is.”

HE’S NO. 2

Despite being in trade rumors seemingly every year, Lopez has now played 551 games with the Nets, moving ahead of Mike Gminski into second place on the franchise list. He trails only Buck Williams, as he also does on the Nets’ career points list.


Pistons: Visit Chicago on Wednesday, looking to even the all-time series at 127-all.

Nets: Host Phoenix on Thursday. The Nets have won the last three meetings.

Cavaliers star LeBron James: Raptors ‘in a better place than we are right now’

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It’s not enough to say the Raptors have the Eastern Conference’s best record.

The Celtics had the East’s best record last year, and most people thought the Cavaliers were better. Cleveland had a better point difference and more star power – LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love – than Boston. The Cavs confirmed that notion by cruising past the Celtics in a five-game conference finals.

The Raptors have been the Eastern Conference’s best team this season.

They rank fourth in the NBA in offensive and defensive rating, the only team top five in both categories. Led by DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, their starting lineup has embraced a more dynamic offense with more 3-point shooting and passing. Toronto’s bench is the best in the league.

LeBron, whose Cavaliers host the Raptors tonight, via Joe Vardon of

“They’re in a better place than we are right now because they’ve had more consistency and they’ve had their guys in the lineup for the majority of the year,” James said after the Cavs’ morning workout. “So, they know what they want to accomplish. They know who they are at this point in the season. Obviously, you guys know about us, we’re still trying to figure that out.”

This is so obviously correct. It’s just surprising to see LeBron put it so directly, though it’s unsurprising he’s hanging on the Cavs’ instability to date.

Kevin Love and Isaiah Thomas were injured for long stretches, and Thomas and several others were traded. Coach Tyronn Lue is on a leave of absence.

But the Cavaliers made those major trades because they were struggling, and this new group won’t necessarily simply figure things out with time. Defensive problems persist. Lue’s health is unclear.

LeBron understandably remains confident in himself, even as the Cavs enter the postseason as a middling seed. He’s also setting up a narrative of Cleveland coming from behind if it advances to the NBA Finals. We’ll see whether it happens.

Tonight likely won’t be a referendum, though. Tristan Thompson, Rodney Hood, Kyle Korver and Larry Nance Jr. are out for the Cavaliers. That roster instability still exists.

If LeBron dials up playoff intensity tonight, that could send a warning to Toronto, though I’m not sure it’s necessary. As far ahead as the Raptors are right now, after Cleveland soundly eliminated them the last two years, I think everyone knows it’s a couple months too early to properly assess these teams’ relative places.

Report: Optimism remains for Kawhi Leonard returning this season

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Kawhi Leonard reportedly planned to return for last Thursday’s Spurs-Pelicans game – but didn’t.

A couple games later, and Leonard remains out. Will he actually play again this season?

Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

Leonard resumed working out in San Antonio on Feb. 27 and is feeling “much better,” according to the source. Eleven games remain in the regular season, but there remains optimism he will return this season, the source said.

Sources told ESPN that Leonard’s target date to return from the quadriceps tendinopathy that has kept him out for all but nine games this season has always been “mid-March.”

It’s March 21. We’re nearing the end of what anyone would consider mid-March.

A month ago, Spurs president-coach Gregg Popovich said time was running out for Leonard to return and acclimate to the lineup. But Popovich has sounded more open lately to Leonard – whose own doctors must still clear him – returning whenever the forward is ready.

San Antonio (41-31, tied for fifth in the West) has probably done enough without Leonard to make the playoffs. The Spurs have a 3.0-game buffer over the Nuggets and 3.5-game buffer over the Clippers for playoff position.

But San Antonio would become far more dangerous in the playoffs – a threat to any team, including the Rockets and Warriors – if Leonard returns to full strength.

First, he must just get back on the court at all, and maybe that’ll happen sooner than later. The way this injury has gone, though, it’s hard to believe anything until we see it.

LeBron James on NBA play-in tournament: “No, no, no. That’s wack.”

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It’s a long way off, but there has been some discussion in the league office — and some momentum built up in some corners — for a play-in tournament for the NBA playoffs. While multiple variations of how this would work are in play, it involves some combination of teams seeded seven to 10 in a few single-elimination (or home-and-home) games to see who gets into the 16-team playoffs. The goal is to keep more teams — and more fan bases — engaged in the playoff chase longer.

LeBron James is not a fan. Via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“No, no, no,” James said Wednesday. “That’s wack. That’s wack. Why? You got to earn your spot to be in the postseason. No consolation for finishing last. That’s corny. That’s corny. That’s wack. To play for what? What are they playing for?”

So, how do you really feel?

“[Make the playoffs by winning the tournament], even if my record is better than yours? Nah, that’s wack,” James said.

As fans, we love drama and unpredictability — it’s what we love about March Madness, the upsets that ruin our bracket — and a play-in tournament would bring some to the often predictable NBA table.

However, LeBron has a point. Using the Western Conference and the current standings as an example, how excited are fans and the front offices of the Jazz and Nuggets going to be about an extra game or two for the right to get smacked down by Houston in the first round? Or for the Timberwolves to maybe be out after a game where they lose to the Clippers in a play-in, rather than getting to take on Golden State? Will this really sell well?

The only way this gets backing of most players and the union is if it could help shorten the season — if television and other revenue from these games allowed the 82 game season to drop to 72 (or whatever) and keep the money the same, then players would listen. However, that much money seems unlikely.

Maybe a mid-season NBA Tournament held in one city could generate the needed revenue to shorten the season. Maybe. But that seems more likely than a play-in.

Kyle Korver to miss Wednesday vs. Toronto after death of his brother

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I can’t imagine what this is like.

Cavaliers’ sharpshooter Kyle Korver will not be with the Cavaliers for an interesting showdown with Toronto on Wednesday night due to the death of his younger brother, Kirk. Korver has been given a leave of absence from the team.

Kirk Korver, 27, played four years of college ball at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

There are four Korver brothers, all of whom played college basketball or at a higher level. Kirk was the youngest of them, he reportedly fell seriously ill about a week ago.

Our thoughts are with the entire Korver family.

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