(Brook Lopez (11) blocking a shot on Monday night vs. Orlando – @BrooklynNets)
When the Nets held their Star Wars Night on Monday, it was a natural that they would give out a bobblehead of their star, Brook Lopez.
Lopez is the longest-tenured Net, having been drafted in 2008, and has played at the Meadowlands, Prudential Center, and the Barclays Center.
To use a Star Wars line, the Nets’ force is with Lopez, who has only gotten better with time, and last season arguably was his best.
After the All-Star Break, Lopez averaged 19.7 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, and was the Eastern Conference Player of the Week in consecutive weeks in March.
That solid play has continued into this season, as he has averaged 19.4 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. Lopez has scored 20 or more points ten times, and has had eight double-doubles this season.
The Nets are in rebuilding mode, but with one of the best centers in the NBA, they have been competitive in pretty much every game and beaten playoff teams like Atlanta, Boston, and Houston twice.
The Nets go as Lopez goes, and the last week has put that to the test.
On Thursday night against Philadelphia, he was held to just seven points and seven rebounds, but Andrea Bargnani picked up the slack against the woeful Sixers to get the Nets the win.
On Saturday against the Clippers, he had a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds, but largely wasn’t a factor in the game, which was won by Los Angeles.
Monday night might have been the low point for Lopez and the Nets.
The Orlando Magic dominated the second half, outscoring the Nets 53-37 in the final two quarters, on the way to a 105-82 victory.
Lopez shot a dreadful 4-for-15 from the field and finished with 11 points, and had just six rebounds.
On why he thought this game got away from the Nets, Lopez said, “I definitely take responsibility for this one. I felt I was a complete negative for our team. I kind of let us down, pulled us back. I definitely need to be better and know I can be. It was very frustrating.”
Lopez said of what he pointed to about the result, “I think they came out and played harder than us. But like I said, “I’m frustrated with myself right now, and I need to be better. I’ll get there personally. I know it is a team, and we need to play and trust each other, but I know I need to do my job as well.”
On what he needs to improve on, Lopez said, “There is a number of things. I didn’t enjoy tonight. We can be here awhile if I try and name them.”
Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins said of what they can do to get Lopez more involved, “There is not just one thing you can say, it’s a combination of things. We talked about being double-teamed. Some of it is letting the game come to you. Getting the ball out and letting it come back to you. Some of it is the other team and what they are doing to you as well. Everybody goes through it and you just have to work your way through it. We were just talking about Bogey (Bojan Bogdanovic). Bogey is shooting the ball better. When it is happening, (the media) tends to highlight it and emphasize it, but we just keep playing, just like a pitcher goes out there without his best stuff, he still has to go out there and try to win the game whether he is throwing BB’s or whether he is throwing beach balls. He has to go out there and figure out how to win. And it’s the same way in basketball. You just can’t count on having perfect games for you to be able to be successful in this business. You have to be able to grit it out and scratch and claw and get wins regardless of what the game looks like. That is what competition does.”
Lopez said of his offensive struggles carrying over to the defensive end, “I think it was just a lackluster effort. I don’t know if one thing was affecting another, but it was just the opposite of a complete game.”
The rest of the starting lineup had a tough night as well, with the one highlight being Jarrett Jack’s 15 points and 7 assists leading the way. Joe Johnson put up just six points on 2-for-8 from the field, with both made baskets threes. Thaddeus Young finished with a double-double with 10 points (5-11 FG) and 11 rebounds. Bojan Bogdanovic (4-8 FG, 2-5 on threes), one assist, and no rebounds.
Young said of what he points to as the reason the Magic outplayed them, “I might say that we played a quarter and a half with a lot of energy and then just kind of, as a team, we were trying to run some wild sets and was kind of cruising through our stuff and trying to get a feel for the game. But they already had their feel and were already into us and were already bringing the energy. When you play a young team like that that’s going to go out there and bring a lot of energy, it’s going to be hard to beat them on any given night.”