The best play Brook Lopez made Monday night nearly cost them the game.
After a rudimentary Iso-Joe shot bounced off the rim, Brook Lopez leaped over Pau Gasol to tip in what would’ve given the Nets a four-point lead and their seventh offensive rebound of the quarter. But instead, Lopez was called for a questionable foul, which allotted Gasol two free throws without taking ticks off the clock, cutting the Nets’ lead to 101-99.
But ten seconds of keep-away, two clutch free throws by Jarrett Jack, and a Lopez block sealed the deal. Maybe the Nets should lose depressing games to the Timberwolves more often.
The Bulls are in disarray: their best player criticized their coach for not working them hard enough, at one point in the third quarter the Bulls missed fourteen consecutive shots, and Joakim Noah left the game with an ugly shoulder injury in the second half. But the Nets have struggled to put away teams like this all season, so they’ll take any win they can get.
There was something tricky about the red-hot start. Most of their early shots were the same ones that limit their ceiling: short floaters, hook shots, and turnaround jumpers. But they just kept hitting them; whether it was Brook Lopez floating that short push shot over Pau Gasol, Joe Johnson spinning in the post, or Thaddeus Young whipping the ball out of his hands, the Nets took the offense that’s kept them down and used it to their advantage.
It worked the other way, too. After the Nets hit tough shots, the Bulls collapsed inside, and the Nets wing players took advantage by converting three-pointers, which apparently NBA teams are allowed to do.
There was something different about tonight. The Bulls don’t exactly run an innovative offense, but the Nets still protected the rim well (Bargnani excluded), and controlled the glass throughout the fourth quarter, right up until Lopez’s controversial foul call. This is the type of effort the team asked of themselves last night. Maybe there’s a little life in this season. Maybe.
The stats: 21 PTS, 8-18 FG, 12 REB, 2 AST, 2 STL, 3 BLK, 3 TOV
Lopez’s clutch plays down the stretch were detailed above, so I won’t repeat myself there. Beyond that, I thought Lopez did a surprisingly good job boxing out and protecting the rim, and didn’t mind battling against Pau Gasol & Joakim Noah. The Nets even got him involved on a couple of late possessions!
If there’s anything to criticize, it’s that Lopez is still having trouble becoming a playmaker. He tried to thread a few passes that just weren’t there. But that’s nitpicking a great closeout performance.