It was a close game for about 33 minutes: the Nets controlled the paint behind Brook Lopez, their wing players were able to create shots inside for themselves and others, the frontcourt put in big, quality minutes, and it looked like, at least for some time, the Nets would put up their best effort of the season yet.
But then Lopez, clearly exhausted, went to the locker room, never returning after suffering a sore right foot — the same foot Lopez has hurt time and time again, the same foot that’s had multiple surgeries. Young, limping after an awkward fall, sat out. Milwaukee’s long-range threats hit a flurry of three-pointers. And in what felt like a blink, a close game turned into another double-digit Nets deficit, and eventually turned into another loss.
The Nets are not a good three-point shooting team, or at the very least, they haven’t figured out how to become one yet. Tonight, there was some semblance of identity. This team can pack the paint on offense, trust their wings to pass the ball around and drive the lane until a crevice emerges, and hope their frontcourt can will them to victories. But there’s a ceiling on how effective a style like that can be, and right now, it’s 0 and 7. Without Brook Lopez, who knows when a win comes.
Time in and time out, these losses do not fall on Brook Lopez. A dominant first half for the seven-footer on the inside: Lopez committed to scoring in the paint, getting layups out of post-up moves and quick short floaters with ease, and deterring shots on the other side.
Lopez, perhaps feeling the effects of fatigue, stepped out in the second half for more jump shots, and eventually needed to head to the locker room. Shortly before the game ended, the Nets said Lopez had a sore right foot, the same foot he’s had three foot surgeries on in three years. If there’s any significant issue with his foot, what’s already a long season will feel like an eternity.
Not counting the lack of outside shooting — which he intentionally avoids — Hollis-Jefferson’s biggest weakness is derived from his strength; that crazy energy that makes him such an effective defensive player can lead to some touch fouls, which take him out of the game.
Nonetheless, he’s still arguably the most fun Nets player to watch, which at this point is like saying he’s the finest rudder on the Titanic.