June 01, 2023

Brook Lopez Puts On Another Great Show With 20 Points and 9 Rebounds

The Brooklyn Nets are a half-game out of the 8th and final playoff spot, currently occupied by the Boston Celtics, and tied with the Indiana Pacers.

Excluding Friday night's game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, who look primed for a title run, the Nets have 12 games left until the end of the regular-season.

Due to their current position, every game is important for the Nets with wins as the only option, and the results of their last contest helped.

The Nets returned home from a one-game road trip defeating the Charlotte Hornets, 91-88, thanks in large part to Brook Lopez (34 points, 10 rebounds, 2 steals, 3 blocks vs. Hornets) who is playing some of the best basketball of his season, averaging 30.7 points in his last four games.

Brook Lopez 600x591

As for the Cavs, Lebron James and Kyrie Irving are leading a team that has clinched a playoff berth (47-26), currently enjoying a four-game winning streak, which includes a win against the Nets in a rout, 117-92, last Wednesday.

Fortunately for the Nets, they were able to put forth the effort necessary to achieve their revenge.

Behind another strong game from Lopez and healthy contributions courtesy of Bojan Bogdanovic and Joe Johnson, the Nets defeated the Cavs, for a change, behind what seemed like a capacity crowd, 106-98.

Collage Bojan Bogdanovic Joe Johnson 700x350 Brooklyn Nets shooting guards Bojan Bogdanovic and Joe Johnson

The Nets improved to (31-40) while the Cavs, who's four-game winning streak snapped, regressed to (47-27) on the season.

Now how much of this game is a result of the Cavs clinching their playoff spot remains to be seen, but what the Nets achieved is exactly what they have to do if they indeed want to compete in serious spring basketball.

And that's take advantage.

A win is a win and at this point of the season, the Nets do not have the luxury of playing down or up to any opponent, like the Cavs can.

Surprisingly the Cavs were unable to put the Nets away as the home team went neck and neck with the visitors for the majority of the game but early in the fourth quarter, the Nets capitalized on the opportunities they were given in keeping the Cavs out of the winners circle.

In the 4th quarter, with the game hanging in the balance at the 6:08 mark, Bogdanovic converted a 12-foot jump-shot which gave the Nets a five-point lead, 92-87.

After six straight made free throws, courtesy of Johnson and Lopez (4), that improved the Nets lead to seven, 98-91, Irving got to the line and cut the deficit to six with two made free throws, in an attempt to spark a late Cavs comeback.

But Johnson had other thoughts and sealed the Nets fate with one shot.

After the aforementioned free-throws by Irving, Johnson, with the shot-clock expiring pulled up from 26' feet, beyond three-point range, knocking down the dagger, which enhanced the Nets lead by eight, up 101-93.

"It felt good," Johnson said reflecting on the deep three-pointer.

"I wasn't sure that it was going in but it felt good."

Good enough to provide the Nets with breathing room.

Good enough to seal the win.

But let's be honest here.

This wasn't the Cavs; this was the Cavs post clinching their playoff berth.

I was waiting for the Cavs to make that run, a run filled with highlights featuring the likes of LeBron (24 points, 9 assists), Love (18 points), Irving (26 points) and other key players that would impose their will on defense and string to get a series of baskets that would suck the life out of the Nets only to the benefit of the crowd and guys sporting red from Cleveland.

It never came.

In other words, the Cavs didn't come to play, they were uninterested in this competition and it showed through the duration of yesterday's affair.

Just ask Cavs Head Coach David Blatt.

"I don't feel like we played like ourselves today and we paid for it," Blatt said postgame. "We’re still not at the finish line. We have to refocus our attention immediately to get on track."

The Cavs are only 2.5 games ahead of the Chicago Bulls who are also streaking, winning four of their last five games (44-29).

And looking at the remaining schedules of both squads it seems as though the Cavs have a rougher road to end the season than the Bulls, but who cares.

This is about the Nets right?

Regarding the positives of this game, Brook Lopez, for the fifth straight game, was among the Nets top scorers, continuing his strong play inside en-route to a near double-double in 20 points and 9 rebounds.

Johnson shot 50% from the field chipping in 20 like Lopez.

Bogdanovic did not disappoint scoring 18.

Alan Anderson, who reminded everyone during the postgame locker-room media availability period that his alma-mater, Michigan State was playing, supplied a healthy scoring out-put in 13 points and Jarrett Jack in a little over 25 minutes poured in 16 and 5 assists.

Collage Alan Anderson Jarrett Jack 700x350 Brooklyn Nets shooting guard Alan Anderson (l) and guard Jarrett Jack

In other words, the Nets had five players in double-figures which is the recipe to win your share of games in the NBA, but the under the radar performance award goes to Earl Clark.

Earl Clark Nets HeadshotThe former Louisville Cardinal, who most recently played in China for the Shandong Flaming Bulls, signed a 10-day contract with the Nets on Friday and immediately announced himself when he entered the game in the 3rd quarter.

In the final seven minutes to close the 3rd quarter, Clark went 3 of 4 from the field which included one three, netting seven points in his Nets debut.

"The reality was, after he made the shot, I decided to just let him go," Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins said during his post-game press-conference. "I didn't feel comfortable at first watching him, and then after he made the shot, he looked comfortable, and then he did something on the defensive end, and then I said, come on back out, and let him have some time."

With Mirza Teletovic and Sergey Karasev both out for the season with their respective ailments, Clark will be given an ample amount of opportunities to prove himself in earning a permanent roster spot.

And honestly, if the Nets need Clark, that's a problem.

All in all, the Nets won whether the Cavs wanted to play or not, and I cannot stress enough how important it is for the Nets to put forth a winning effort until April 15th.

"At this point for us every game is important," Johnson said.

"We know what is at stake for us and that is more important than anybody that we are playing against," said Jack.

"We've talked about it a lot lately, what every game means to us, so this was a big win for us," said Deron Williams.

At least the Nets are aware and focused on the task at hand.

The Nets next opponent is the Los Angeles Lakers also at home on Sunday, March 29, with a 3:30 p.m. tip-off.

"We can't take them lightly," Williams said post-game.

"They've won some ball games, have a lot of young guys that are hungry to get out there and play and show they belong in this league. We can't look past anybody."

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