Give the Nets this: they executed the gameplan. With Dwight Howard out, the Nets got into the paint early and often, both to threaten Houston’s weakened interior defense and to twist their attention inside to create open three-point looks. Between that and some tough defense on James Harden to keep the ball out of his hands, the Nets had a legitimate shot to win…
…and shot themselves in the foot down the stretch. Whether it was not valuing possessions with quick, bad shots, or not getting back properly on defense, the Nets were beaten by a team that had superior talent and took advantage of a sloppy Nets finish.
The stats: 12 PTS, 4-12 FG, 4-4 FT, 12 REB (8 OFF)
This didn’t seem like a game where he’d find success early, as Donatas Motiejunas and even Josh Smith drew him out of the paint defensively and he struggled to convert inside.
But Lopez got stronger as the game progressed, basically letting Smith shoot wherever he wanted outside of 16 feet if Smith was his assignment, and getting inside to make easy shots and grab rebounds in the second half. But it wasn’t all good: Lopez hooked a wild shot late in the fourth quarter when the team had time to burn on the clock.
One recent development: over his last 11 games, he’s averaged as many offensive rebounds as defensive rebounds. Given how Lopez was straying further and further from the basket early in the year, it’s a welcome sign to see him get inside.