Brook Lopez and Andray Blatche Dominate Together; More To Come?
Jim Mancari , Contributor
NEW YORK — In the Nets’ 108-98 win Tuesday over the New Orleans Hornets, Brook Lopez opened the game with a stellar first quarter, scoring 12 points.
Andray Blatche then shot 6-of-8 in the second quarter to score 12 points.
Imagine what they’d be like on the court together…
Well, that was the case for extended minutes in the fourth quarter, in which the two combined for 10 points.
Collectively, Brooklyn’s “centers” shot 19-of-30 for 44 points. With Joe Johnson sitting the game out, the Nets needed their big men to come through, and that’s exactly what they did.
Lopez and Blatche had played together recently, but sparingly. With Reggie Evans picking up his fourth foul late in the third quarter though, it became imperative for both big men to be on the floor simultaneously.
“It was good; it was a lot of fun,” Lopez said of playing with Blatche. “It was good to finally be out there and try everything out. I personally wondered for a while if it was going to work. So this was good to finally be out there and test it.”
Hornets’ power forward Anthony Davis was cleaning up on the glass all game, so the Nets needed both Lopez and Blatche to match the rookie’s length. The strategy worked, since Davis only managed three points and three rebounds in the fourth quarter.
“Their interaction has always been good,” P.J. Carlesimo said of Lopez and Blatche. “They both can pass the ball decently, and I think they did a little bit of everything.”
Blatche said the game is “easier” when he’s on the floor with Lopez since Lopez will draw so much attention as a scorer that there will be much more space for he and his teammates to get open looks.
Deron Williams and Gerald Wallace agreed.
“I think it makes a big difference having those two guys out there,” Williams said. “The whole team has to pay attention to where they are at all times. We can also throw it down to either one of them on the block and let them go to work. Especially when they’re shooting the ball the way they were, they’re really hard to guard.”
“That’s two almost seven-footers, so that opens up the court a lot more,” Wallace said. “The paint is protected a whole lot more. Those guys are both threats offensively on the block, and both guys have to be respected offensively.”
Carlesimo said that with the playoffs coming up, the Nets will need both Lopez and Blatche on the floor together to match up against a few of the bigger teams in the Eastern Conference. At least at the offensive end, Lopez and Blatche could potentially be a matchup nightmare for most opponents.
“We’re both very offensive-minded,” Blatche said of himself and Lopez. “When I get the ball and I’m going to the hole and somebody steps up, that’s gonna be an easy dunk for Brook. It’s going to put a lot of big men in some tough situations.”
Both big men said that once the two of them practice more together and see more time together in games, they’ll become even more familiar with each other’s styles. Having Blatche in the paint allows Lopez to extend his shooting range, and he’s shown he can knock down those outside jumpers.
“I think it would be interesting, definitely,” Lopez said of continuing to see time with Blatche. “People have to play him honest when they’re guarding him offensively, so it gives them a lot of opportunities to hit other players.”
Carlesimo said that he would continue to seek opportunities to have both players on the court together. “If the matchup will allow us to, yes we’ll do it.”
The only thing to keep in mind is that Blatche has been playing as Lopez’s reserve mostly out of necessity. Neither he nor Lopez are strong rebounders and after Lopez, Blatche is the only other player on the Nets roster that is taller than 6’9″. With the Nets lacking a true backup center, it is difficult to rely too much on Lopez and Blatche playing together, but as Blatche said, his coach is unpredictable.
“I never know what P.J. has up his sleeves,” he said. Neither do we. But fortunately for the Nets, now that we know that these two can and are willing to play together, opponents may not know, either. That bodes well for Brooklyn.
Jim Mancari is a Contributor to SNYNets.com. Follow him on Twitter @JMMancari.