Brook Lopez is much better at basketball than he is a sacrificial lamb, to be honest.
After sitting out last night’s blowout at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers, Lopez would get his chance for revenge against the Western Conference version of those #PeskyNets — the Lakers. Free of their Kobe Bryant-esque shackles, the team has thrived under new head coach Luke Walton and the superstar-in-the-making, D’Angelo Russell.
And the Lak — wait, you know what, let’s just cut to the chase: Russell — oh, you all should know Russell, Mr. I-Got-Ice-In-My-Veins very well — started off with his best Stephen Curry impression, drilling his first 5 three-pointers… in the first quarter… in the first five minutes of the first quarter. Add in Timofey Mozgov’s chip-in of 8 points and you’d have, it would seem, a successful quarter — perhaps one even reminiscent of the Clippers’ beatdown last night.
Except, instead, those gritty Nets somehow led after one quarter 29-27 through Lopez (13) and Trevor Booker’s never-ending engine. Fueled by an extra night off and a tasty matchup against Mozgov, Lopez pulled out every trick in the book early on — three-pointers, floaters, drawing the foul, etc. But, quickly, this game devolved into two young, tired teams looking to run the floor at any opportunity with middling-to-sloppy results.
Against all odds, the Nets happened to hang tight with the Lakers’ hot-shooting start, despite hitting just 4-16 from three in the first half. That was all thanks to Bojan Bogdanovic’s quick-flashback to the Rio Olympics as the Croatian hit Dirk-esque fadeaways, dunked on Russia, and ran the floor with confidence — but he would just be getting started.
At the half, Joe Harris, uncharacteristically ice cold, was the only Net to play without a point, shooting 0-3 from deep; and the Nets trailed 56-51 because of it.
Of course, the dreaded third quarter struck and while they were only outscored 37-34 in the frame, they missed opportunity after opportunity to defensively get some stops, a factor that would eventually hurt them in the long run. The Nets trailed 93-85 after the third buzzer — and you know how these quarters generally go — so let’s skip to the ending here:
Every time the Nets made a small run, there was an equal counter from the Lakers looming. Every time the Nets cut it down to 5 points, it immediately ballooned back up to 11. You often notice the absence of Jeremy Lin against the elite teams like the Clippers or Charlotte Hornets, but it’s never been more obvious a hole than it was tonight against a very winnable Lakers team.
With 5 minutes to go, the Nets trailed 108-100 and, with both teams in the bonus, the game was there for the taking, they’d just need some consecutive defensive stops. Thanks to some huuuuuuge Yogi Ferrell buckets (not playing like an undrafted rookie) and Bogdanovic (never leave your heart in Rio again), the Nets stayed alive until the game’s waning moments.
Unfortunately, the Nets just run out of chances to claw all the way home, particularly so after Booker fired a fastbreak pass out of bounds with just a minute remaining. On a night where the Nets were carried by just two players, they shot only 29% from three, and the Lakers pulled down 14 offensive rebounds, it just wasn’t going to happen — and that’s OK.
The sooner Lin is back, however, the more likely they are to pull out some of these winnable games.
Until then… buckle up.
The stats: 7 PTS, 3-9 FG, 1-7 3PT, 3 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 1 TOV
Eh, it’s not going to happen every night.
The stats: 30 PTS, 10-25 FG, 4-11 3PT, 10 REB, 3 AST, 3 BLK, 2 TOV
Brook Lopez is getting awfully comfortable with throwing up three fingers after his downtown bombs.
And that’s just fine with me.
Not only is Lopez shooting three-pointers regularly now, he’s making them with confidence as well.
Yeah, 2009 me is shocked too.
After getting a night off, Lopez looked more than willing to carry the Nets on his back — and they needed every bucket.
Oh, and, Lopez became the all-time franchise leader in blocked shots in with 864, surpassing George Johnson.
Not a bad night at the office.