It's happened more than a few times.
Brook Lopez starts off with an offensive fury, throwing up difficult shots with most hitting the bottom of the net. With each make, the crowd noise hits a crescendo.
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He's in that zone. He's feeling it. It's like he can't be stopped.
Then he goes to the bench for a rest at some point in the first quarter or the beginning of the second, and he struggles to consistently regain that deft touch. That familiar script played out again for the Nets center in a tough 92-90 loss to the Bulls Thursday when Lopez scored 18 of his 28 points in the first quarter and missed a possible game-tying shot in the final seconds.
Lopez admitted he may have to be more assertive in crunch time.
"We've got a lot of guys who can score the ball," he said after the two-point loss. "Certain guys are going to get hot at certain times and that's definitely the way it went. I definitely criticize myself, though, that I wasn't aggressive enough at the end of the game. If there's going to be any reason it didn't happen late in the game, it's totally on me."
Lopez's numbers by quarter looks like a mountain range: lots of peaks and valleys. He's scored 479 points in the first, 231 in the second, 365 in the third and only 227 in the fourth. Part of that stems from interim coach P.J. Carlesimo's substitution pattern, opting to ride Andray Blatche, particularly if he's sizzling. But as Lopez indicated, he has to step it up more when the game is on the line.
Carlesimo described the disparity in Lopez's production against the Bulls this way: "It's a little bit of everything -- go to him more, finish more, make some of the same shots you made in the first half. Usually, if somebody has a quarter like that, you usually don't multiply it times four and say, 'Oh, he's going to go for 50 tonight because he's got it going.' We've got other guys."
Still, when the playoffs roll around, the Nets will need more consistent offense from Lopez. He also must be a better decision-maker late in the game. Lopez made a critical turnover in the final minute of Thursday's loss.
"He's been great for us all season," Joe Johnson said, "and if we were in the same position again, I'm sure he would do something a little different."