Now that’s the Brook Lopez we know!
The Brooklyn Nets (15-16) ended the 2014 calendar year with a 96-82 victory over the Chicago Bulls (22-10) Tuesday night, in resounding and inexplicable fashion. Brook Lopez led the way with a season-high 29 points, and Joe Johnson chipped in a double-double, pouring in 20 points and adding 11 rebounds.
Tuesday’s win marked just the second time the Nets have beaten a team with a record over .500, who are now 2-13 in such contests.
About an hour before tip-off, Lionel Hollins announced that Brook Lopez would be reinserted back into the starting lineup to play alongside Mason Plumlee for matchup purposes. A frontline of Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol has the Bulls ranked as the third-best team in rebounding percentage, grabbing 51.4% of all possible rebound attempts. Meanwhile, the Nets rank as one of the worst rebounding teams in the league. With Kevin Garnett out (rest) and Brook Lopez manning the inside, it would have been tough to imagine anything other than a beatdown from the Bulls.
That didn’t happen: the Nets led the rebounding battle through most of the game with a collective battle on the glass, out-scoring the Bulls 15-12 in second-chance points, ultimately leading to a stunning win for the Nets.
Brook Lopez didn’t make his stamp on the game rebounding the ball. We knew he wouldn’t. But Hollins was reminded of what the 7-footer is capable of offensively: Jarrett Jack worked the pick-and-roll effectively all night while Lopez made himself available off of guard penetration. Jack and Deron Williams both did a great job finding him in areas of the floor that led to high-percentage looks.
There were times, especially in the first quarter, where Lopez took his defender one-on-one. Are Lopez isolations the worst play in the Nets’ playbook? No, but as with any player, you’re typically going to find the most consistent number of open looks off of man-movement and ball distribution. The basketball needs to move, from player to player and from one side of the floor to the other.
Lopez admitted after the game that he was came out “a little too trigger-happy” to start the game. He went 3-7 from the floor in the first quarter and the Nets found themselves down 31-24.
Lopez’s success came after he got settled in and allowed the ball to come to him via ball movement off of high screen and rolls and camping out in the lane once either guard (Jack or Williams) drew his defender off of dribble-penetration. He shot 7-10 in the paint, as floaters, one-dribble hook-shots, and layups accounted for the majority of Lopez’s points. Eventually, once he had established himself as a significant scoring threat down low, Brook began to pop, or “stick” as Donny Marshall & Ian Eagle would call it, as opposed to rolling to the front of the rim. He went 6-11 from midrange.
All hail the pick-and-stick!
Lopez scored 23 of his 29 points on 10-14 from the floor after the first quarter. Brooklyn outscored Chicago 72-51 during that same stretch.
It’s a game both the Nets and Brook Lopez can look to build on as they look forward to new fortunes in 2015. Brooklyn, winners of 5 of their last 6 games, will get a couple of days of rest before heading down to the Amway Center on Friday to take on the Orlando Magic in an attempt to reach the .500 mark for the first time since mid-November. Tip-off is at 7:00 EST.