Some of the best trades are the ones you don’t make. Brook Lopez has been red hot of late, and it’s powering the Nets to their best stretch of the season.
On Sunday, Lopez had 30 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks in the Nets’ win over the Lakers. He has averaged 28.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in the last four games.
“We’re playing toward him a lot in our game, and he’s delivered,” Lionel Hollins said of Lopez after Brooklyn’s victory over the Lakers. “He’s played big-time basketball. When you get 30-plus points, and in the way he’s doing it night in and night out, that’s huge for us.”
Overall in March, Lopez is averaging 20.7 points, 8.9 rebounds in 32 minutes per game. His offensive rating is a season-high 117, and he’s shooting 54.6 percent from the field.
This is the Brook Lopez we’ve been waiting all season to see. He’s healthy, confident and — as a result — absolutely dominant. He’s scored 30 in four of his last six games, and that’s indicative of Hollins’ willingness to run the offense through Lopez, and Brook’s ability to get to a point on the floor where he knows he can hit his shots. It’s a complete game changer. When Lopez is going right, the Nets look like a world beater, instead of the hapless bunch that has appeared for the majority of the season.
Ability has never been the problem with Lopez. It’s about consistency. Volatility — whether it’s a shooting slump, a lapse in defense or a reoccurring health problem — is the biggest fly in Brook’s ointment. That being said, if Lopez can finish these last 10 games as strong as he has played all month, not only do the Nets stand as the odds on favorite for the eight spot, they could give Atlanta quite a series in the first round.
With their sixth win in eight games, the Nets have moved into sole possession of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The 107-99 win, coupled with a Celtics’ loss to the Clippers, pushed Brooklyn a half game in front of Boston and just one and half behind Miami for the seventh spot.
“We were never out of it in the East,” Deron Williams told reporters after the game. “And where we are at right now on the bottom, you win four in a row and there’s no telling. Teams are continuing to slide. Milwaukee hasn’t been playing the best basketball. Miami is up and down and they are dealing with some injuries, and we’ve just got to keep on trucking, keep on trying to rack up some wins. And who knows where we can be when it’s all said and done.”
Well, you have to give it to them. The Nets scored a couple of big wins last week after the debacle against Boston. Part of that was beating the teams they are better than (Charlotte and L.A.) to keep themselves afloat. I know I’ve been down on Brooklyn for most of this season, but they can certainly erase my cynicism by turning the corner and getting hot down the stretch. Of course, the most pertinent question is can they keep up this pace?
The Nets will host Indiana on Tuesday and go to the Garden to square off against the Knicks on Wednesday. That’s a back-to-back they need to sweep. Besides the obvious reasons, it also will be the last time the schedule lets up until the last game of the season. Brooklyn’s remaining opponents after this week’s back-t0-back are Toronto, Atlanta (twice), Portland, Washington, Milwaukee, Chicago and Orlando. Obviously, some of those teams will be in rest mode for the playoffs, so the Nets can take advantage of playing a few skeleton squads, but they’ll still have their work cut out for them.
The Nets matched a season-high three-game win streak after dismantling the Lakers at the Barclays Center on Sunday.
Recap The resurgent Nets won three in a row for the first time since Feb. 2-6 and moved into eighth place in the Eastern Conference by a half-game over Boston, which lost to the Clippers Sunday night.
Need to know: Brook Lopez had 30 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Nets. It was his fourth game with 30 or more in his past six and 13th double-double of the season.
The Nets have won seven of nine overall and three of four at home after four consecutive defeats there.
Joe Johnson had 18 points and Deron Williams 13. . .Williams had 11 assists and Johnson seven as the Nets totaled 29 assists to nine turnovers. . .the Nets’ 19 first-half assists matched a season-high.
Markel Brown had a career-high 17 points. . .Johnson and Earl Clark both had eight rebounds.
The Lakers were outscored 30-19 in the first quarter but came to back to cut the lead to three in the fourth quarter. . .Jordan Hill had 22 points and 16 rebounds to lead the Lakers, who were without Jeremy Lin and Carlos Boozer.
Before Sunday, the Lakers won their last seven road games in the series.
Links: AP recap | Box Score
What’s Next: The Nets host Indiana Tuesday (7:30 p.m.)
The Nets host the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn.
The game is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on YES and WFAN.
Joe Johnson, Mason Plumlee, Brook Lopez, Markel Browns and Deron Williams are expected to start.
2/20: Brooklyn beat the Lakers 114-105 in Los Angeles in the teams’ lone meeting this season. Joe Johnson had 23 points and Brook Lopez 22 as the Nets scored 40 points in the third quarter, a season high. Deron Williams had a season-high 15 assists to go with 12 points.
In case you missed it…
The Nets stunned the Cavaliers to stay in the playoff hunt on Friday. The Nets are a team that is hard to figure out (Kerber, March 28).
The Nets will be without Thadeus Young (knee) on Sunday against the Lakers, but Deron Williams (illness) is likely to suit up.
GEICO SportsNite has reaction from the Nets after their 106-98 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night.