Unlike the rest of his teammates, Brook Lopez has been a symbol of offensive consistency for the Brooklyn Nets, looking better and more dangerous with each game that passes in the first round series. His best game so far kept his team in the playoffs, although they’ll need more than just him to make it into the semifinals.
Lopez finished with 28 points on 11-20 from the field, not really minding Joakim Noah or anyone else who was guarding him. He’s averaging 23.6 points per game in the series, never scoring less than 21 points. He got a lot of help from Deron Williams, scoring 23 points, leading to a much easier win than predicted, 110-91, before the series heads back to Chicago.
The Bulls are worth a defensive lapse every few games, even with Noah putting in close to 30 minutes. The Bulls couldn’t keep Lopez and Reggie Evans off the offensive glass, allowing 17 offensive rebounds and 54 points in the paint, including 24 second-chance points, more than they’ve allowed in any other game this season.
Deron Williams made the most of Kirk Hinrich not playing, getting Nate Robinson in front of him for 38 minutes. While Robinson can be unexpected and almost brilliant offensively on his good days, he can’t do much more than try and steals balls while guarding point guards that are taller, stronger and in the case of Williams, simply better than him.
D-Will made 6 of 10 shots and scored 19 of his 23 points with Robinson guarding him, compared to 33.3% from the field during the series when Hinrich was guarding him. He also finished with 10 assists, making it his second 20-10 game in this postseason, becoming only the second Nets player over the last 25 years with with multiple 20-10 games in a single postseason, following Jason Kidd who had five of them in 2002, leading the Nets to the NBA finals.
The rest of the series will fall on the health of Kirk Hinrich, as funny as that sounds. Robinson can’t keep Williams out of the paint, and that forces the entire Bulls team to leave certain players, including Lopez, who might be getting his points anyway, but had to work much harder for them in the three losses. And some numbers don’t lie – when the Nets won in the series, they scored 55 points from the paint while shooting 67.1% from inside. In their losses, they’re barely over 40 points while making 50% of those shots.
Gerald Wallace is another one of the players the Nets need. He is feeling absolutely crushed in terms of confidence this season when it comes to his offense, but he did finish with 12 points, including a clutch three pointer late in the game to keep the Bulls from making a run, following that up with a transition dunk. His defense was, as always, the better part of his game.