The Nets had a game in hand on Saturday night at the United Center in Chicago against the Bulls and let it slip away in the fourth quarter with a horrible final 1:30. The Nets had a six point lead with less than six minutes to play when Avery Johnson took Brook Lopez out of the game because he hit his 24 minute restriction.
How did Lopez minutes restriction hurt the Nets?
Lopez had played about half the game while posting 18 points and 10 rebounds — nine points and six rebounds more than he posted during the same amount of action in his return to the lineup Friday night after missing seven games because of a sprained right foot.
At that point, Lopez’s night should’ve been over. The game should’ve been over, too.
Neither was. And, as a result, an encouraging performance by Lopez was overshadowed by what transpired in next 4 minutes, 25 seconds.
Let’s take a look at the Nets’ possessions over that span:
• 5:01: Turnover, Joe Johnson
• 4:13: Missed shot, Andray Blatche
• 3:32: Missed 3-point shot, Johnson
• 2:47: Missed shot, Deron Williams
• 2:00: Williams makes two of thee free throws
• 1:30: Turnover, Blatche
In those six possessions, the Nets went 0-for-3 from the field and committed two turnovers while being outscored 6-2.
That prompted Avery Johnson to re-insert Lopez at the 1:25 mark with his team ahead by just two.
The rest of the Nets’ possessions went like this:
• 1:05: Turnover, Johnson
• 0:39: Missed shot, Lopez
• 0:06: Missed shot, Williams
• 0:00: 3-pointer, Williams
Prior to D-Will’s buzzer-beater, the Nets had nine possessions, went 0-for-5 from the field and committed three turnovers while being outscored 12-2. They lost, 83-82.
So what exactly does this mean, the fact that Brooklyn squandered a lead with Lopez on the bench? It means that Lopez, as he has been all season, is the Nets’ most valuable player. With him in the lineup, Brooklyn is 11-5, including 4-4 against .500 or better teams. Without him in the lineup, Brooklyn is 2-5, 0-5 against .500 or better teams.
“Brooklyn’s Backcourt” has shown flashes of brilliance — Joe Johnson’s buzzer-beater on Friday night being the latest — but for the most part, Johnson and Williams have been disappointments. And who knows if they’ll develop any sort of consistency.