Lopez scores 26 as Nets beat Kings
AP Sports Writer
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) – It’s one down and one to go for the New Jersey Nets in their race to avoid the stigma as the NBA’s worst team, and this rare victory was extra special for interim coach Kiki Vandeweghe.
Hours after the death of his mother, former Miss America Colleen Kay Hutchins, Vandeweghe saw the Nets move a step closer to avoiding a dubious date with NBA history by beating the Sacramento Kings 93-79 on Wednesday night.
“My mother was obviously very special to all of our family and to me and to my father, known around here as Dr. Ernie,” Vandeweghe said. “I talked to my dad about it and he said she would have wanted me here. She knows that I love this, and we love it as a family. What I’d like to say is: ‘Thanks Mom. We got one.”‘
The Nets snapped an eight-game losing streak and a franchise-record, 14-game skid at home because of the play of center Brook Lopez and point guard Devin Harris.
Lopez had 26 points and 13 rebounds, and Harris added 24 points and nine assists for the Nets (8-63), who need to win once in their last 11 games to avoid breaking the mark for fewest wins in a season (9-73), set by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1972-73.
“It’s always a nice feeling to win,” Harris said. “It’s been a rough year for all of us. It’s a good feeling to see guys cheerful back in the locker room and excited about coming to work tomorrow. Hopefully, we can hang onto this and carry it into the next game.”
The Nets, who have not won consecutive games all season, can avoid the worst mark on Friday when they face the Detroit Pistons (23-48), losers of six in a row.
“Obviously, it’s a good feeling,” Lopez said. “We’ve had a week, week-and-a-half of great practices. We just want to continue this momentum through the game on Friday.”
Beno Udrih had 19 points for the Kings, who lost the eighth time in 11 games.
“I would say it’s not even really close, so far, by miles and miles our worst game of the year in every way,” said Kings coach Paul Westphal, who called his team’s performance “horrible.”
The victory also came two days after Nets chief executive Brett Yormark had an exchange with a fan who wore a paper bag over his face during a loss to the Miami Heat.
On Wednesday, the fans wore smiles and had a lot to cheer about.
Sacramento played its third straight game without guard Tyreke Evans, who leads all rookies with 20.3 points per game.
The Nets turned 15 turnovers into 13 points with a transition game that has been absent most of the season.
“You really don’t want to lose to this team,” Kings forward Carl Landry said. “They are facing the worst record of all-time in NBA history and this is a team you just don’t want to lose to. It will be a game I will remember forever, the rest of my life. I’ll try to take it and use it as motivation.”
New Jersey took the lead for good late in the second quarter when a steal and dunk by Chris Douglas-Roberts ignited a nine-point run that gave the Nets a 41-35 lead on a dunk by Lopez.
Leading by four points at the half, Harris and Yi Jianlian scored five points apiece in a 10-2 spurt that pushed the lead to 57-47.
The lead was still nine points entering the fourth quarter and the Nets turned this one into a rare laugher when Douglas-Roberts sandwiched two free throws and a basket around a 3-pointer by Keyon Dooling for a 77-61 lead.
Donte Greene added 14 points and 10 rebounds for Sacramento.
Nets rookie Terrence Williams missed the game with a left foot injury.
NOTES: Sitting in the front row, former New York Giants punter Sean Landeta caught a loose ball in the first half. …The Kings are 2-6 without Evans, who is expected to work out Thursday and possibly play Friday at Boston, Westphal said. …The Nets celebrated Jewish Family Night. It coincided with an appearance by the Kings’ Omri Casspi, the only Israeli player taken in the first-round of the NBA draft. New Jersey also announced it will play Maccabi Haifa of the Israeli Basketball Super League in a preseason game on Oct. 3 at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.