It was a recipe for disaster — the Nets have struggled against young, athletic teams that have perimeter-oriented big men, which might as well go on the Orlando Magic masthead. Sure enough, the Nets got out to a rough start, getting abused by Nikola Vucevic inside and Channing Frye outside. But the Nets elected to keep Brook Lopez on the bench during the fourth quarter, and Vucevic was held scoreless by the likes of Kevin Garnett and Mason Plumlee.
The Nets should beat a team like the Magic a bit more handily than they did, but a win is a win.
With Brook Lopez struggling to contain Nikola Vucevic — who had 27 points through three quarters — down the stretch, Hollins turned to Kevin Garnett, and Garnett kept Vucevic on lockdown as the Nets built a double-digit lead. For that alone, an A.
He struggled again to hit some open shots, but acted as a great decoy 20 feet out, swinging the ball to teammates, particularly Bojan Bogdanovic.
When the anonymous petition circles the league to ban players named Nikola, let there be no mystery who sent it out.
The Magic spent most of their successful offensive trips running pick-and-rolls and off-ball screens to get Lopez moving off his man, then finding the opening on defense before the Nets could recover.
This isn’t a new development with Lopez — he’s never been a great off-ball defender, as we mentioned in his season preview — but his health isn’t what’s hindering him here. It’ll take time to mold a successful defense around him, and it remains Lionel Hollins’s biggest test.