Nets center Brook Lopez was a force during the Brooklyn's first game against the Knicks last month, getting 22 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks in 38 minutes in his team's 96-89 overtime win at Barclays Center. But two nights later, the 7-footer sprained his right foot and has been sidelined since, and the Nets have lost four straight.
But Lopez ran through a full five-on-five practice Monday , and his status will be a game-time decision when the Knicks arrive for Tuesday night 's rematch.
"I wasn't sure I'd be able to go an entire practice," Lopez said, "not just because of the foot but because of my conditioning. We'll see how it feels tomorrow."
Lopez, who has been averaging 18.5 points and 6.8 rebounds, said he has been "pain-free for more than a few days. It's a matter of getting the explosion back in the foot."
Afterward, coach Avery Johnson hedged about Lopez's readiness.
"He did OK," he said. "We'll see if he is good enough to go through shootaround and take it from there . . . Obviously, we are a really good team when he is playing and playing at a high level . . . At the same time, we can't treat Brook like he is a savior, because the chances of him playing [against the Knicks] are not very high. That's why the rest of the guys who are going to be in uniform for sure, we got to play much better."
Against the Knicks, perimeter defense is one area that needs shoring up.
"They've really been tearing teams up from behind the three-point line, leading the NBA in attempts and makes," Johnson said. "Hopefully, we'll have the same intensity [as the previous game against the Knicks] start to finish, because that was one of our better games."
Is the slump deep enough to push Lopez back into the lineup? "Nobody is in a crisis mode," Johnson said. "You're in crisis mode when you lose four games in a row going into the playoffs. You're in crisis mode when you lose four games in a playoff series.
"Would we have liked to have won some games recently? Right. But from what I am seeing in the Eastern Conference and in our division, we're still within five games with 60-something to go."
Notes & quotes: Gerald Wallace will get big minutes at power forward. "They [the Knicks] play a lot of small ball, so you are going to see Gerald play a lot of four," Johnson said. "He actually pushes the ball more when he gets a rebound than when he's at three [small forward]."