NEW YORK -- Alan Anderson probably would’ve shouted “Sparta!” from the top of a mountain. But Anderson didn’t have a mountain. He had an audience and a locker room.
So Anderson, ecstatic that his alma mater, Michigan State, had advanced to the Final Four, began shouting “Sparta!” every so often for about a half-hour span, intentionally annoying his Brooklyn Nets teammates and causing laughter from reporters in the process. It was surprising that he did not lose his voice.
The Madness of March is not lost on NBA players. A decade ago, Anderson led those same Spartans to the Final Four. Michigan State faces Duke next. Mason Plumlee and GM Billy King were both Blue Devils once upon a time.
“So Mase is gonna be mad then [when they lose],” a confident Anderson chuckled.
It sure is easier to crack jokes and talk some playful trash when your current team is playing well. And for a little more than two weeks now, the Nets have been playing extremely well.
On Sunday afternoon at Barclays Center, they fended off the tanking Los Angeles Lakers 107-99. Hours later, the Boston Celtics were throttled by the Los Angeles Clippers, enabling the Nets (32-40) to take over the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 10 games remaining.
“We got another win. That’s all that matters right now,” Nets guard Deron Williams said. “We talked about taking it one win at a time, and this is another win for us. Now we’ve got to move on to the next one.”
Brook Lopez, who will make about $1 million more this season than the eight healthy Lakers that played Sunday ($15.72 million to $14.68 million), posted 30 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks. In his past six games, Lopez has averaged 28.8 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocks while shooting 61.5 percent from the field.
“I thought my focus was a little off tonight,” Lopez said, surprisingly. “I was a little disappointed in myself.”
Brooklyn’s lead was just three when L.A. completely blew a pick-and-roll coverage, allowing Lopez and Williams to combine on an alley-oop dunk that gave their team a 98-93 cushion with 3:36 remaining in the fourth quarter. Williams, who battled illness, had 13 points and nine assists. Joe Johnson added 18 points and seven assists, while rookie Markel Brown contributed a career-high 17 points.
Anderson, a hard-nosed, journeyman reserve guard, had nine. He found out seventh-seeded Michigan State had survived Louisville in overtime while on the bench.
“When did you find out the game was over?” a reporter asked Anderson.
“When the game was over,” he replied.
Thaddeus Young, who missed his second straight game with a left knee strain, broke the good news to Anderson.
“At first [Thad] was like, ‘Man, they lost.’ I started to say, WHAT?!?!’” Anderson recalled. “And he was like, ‘Nah, man. I’m playin’.’”
Anderson said he was not distracted by his favorite team’s victory.
“I know what my job is, but I’m a Spartan all day, so it’s not hard to focus at all,” Anderson said.
With reporters transcribing away in the nearby media room, Anderson could be heard yelling “Sparta!” again as he walked to his car in the bowels of the arena.
All was well.