It only took 80 seconds of game time before YES Network announcer Ian Eagle mentioned Brook Lopez’s Wednesday night struggles against Minnesota Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic, and how Friday night’s matchup was bound to be different. Lopez shot just 5-14 from the field in the team’s 98-91 loss to the Timberwolves, turning time and time again into Pekovic’s enormous upper body. But against the Knicks, there was no Pekovic under the glass, Eagle noted, and thus no hulking figure standing between Lopez and the points he covets.
What a difference a defender makes.
Though Lopez credited the team’s defense numerous times for their 110-99 victory over the New York Knicks, buckets don’t lie: Lopez dropped 20 points on 6-10 shooting, adding eight points in 10 trips to the free throw line. Lopez is notorious for early offense, and the Nets took no time trying to get him the ball. “I think he had like 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks in the first half, something like that, which showed that he did come out to atone for what he considered a subpar game,” coach Lionel Hollins said.
It wasn’t just Lopez who thought that: Hollins said after Wednesday night’s loss that “(Brook) got whipped” by Pekovic, and “there’s always a badder man than you in a prison.”
“We always try to get Brook going early,” Deron Williams added. “In the middle, we want to feed the machine.”
Lopez also credited the team’s work in the community for getting his mind off Wednesday night’s loss. The Nets spent Thursday afternoon at City Harvest, helping pack donated food with veterans and league executives. “It felt good to get out there, get our mind off basketball, help out in the community,” Lopez said. “Then, we just came ready to play tonight.”
One area of concern: Lopez didn’t shy from the gameplan that gave him trouble against Pekovic. He turned over his right shoulder on nearly every attempt. The Knicks have poor interior defenders, which allowed that strategy to succeed, and he was able to pull off his patented rip move. But he could struggle once again on Sunday when he faces Nikola Vucevic, the bruising Orlando Magic center that averaged 17.8 points and 13.0 rebounds per game in the team’s first five games.
But for now, the Nets will relish in a successful outing for Lopez, who played in just his third game of the season after suffering a mild right midfoot sprain in preseason.
“I came in confident,” Lopez added. “I knew I wasn’t going to shoot the same way I did last game. This was going to be different.”