Brook Lopez pulling an inside job for Nets
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Brook Lopez won't be jumping over cars in the dunk contest anytime soon.
But in the Nets' 86-76 win over the Clippers on Friday night, he out-dunked someone who has.
"It's surprising," Lopez said with a laugh when asked about having more dunks in the game than Blake Griffin.
Although the number of dunks is relatively meaningless (Lopez had five and Griffin zero, if you're curious), it helps illustrate Lopez's ability to establish position down low and be aggressive around the basket, which is integral to the Nets' inside-out offense.
The more productive Lopez is in the paint, the more defenses will collapse on him. He then has the option to kick it out to perimeter players who can take the open shot or use their newfound space to create off the dribble.
"We have to be a post-up team," Avery Johnson said after Saturday's practice at the Barclays Center. "When Brook can establish himself and lead the charge there, that gives us some opportunities on the perimeter . . . He's been doing a good job of mixing it up, more inside than outside."
Lopez shot 13-for-24 from the floor and scored 26 points, all but six of which came from inside the paint. It was the third straight game, and fifth time this season, that Lopez made at least 10 field goals and shot better than 50 percent from the floor.
"Our guys were doing a good job of getting me the ball where I can score," Lopez said. "I think it's just a matter of the team really sharing the ball. Our best plays [Friday] night, the ones that really changed the game, were the ones where we had multiple passes where we swung the ball around the floor."
The driving force in the win, however, was team defense. The Nets held the Clippers to a season low in points and shooting percentage (40.3 percent), allowing only 13 points during a fourth quarter that Johnson called the best quarter of defense in his time with the team.
Lopez's role also has expanded on the defensive end, where he has become a more aggressive help defender, leading to more block attempts. The season is young, but with three more blocks Friday, he is averaging a career-high 2.5 per game.
Lopez is becoming more of an inside presence on one end and an efficient source of offense on the other.
"No one can really guard him straight up when he's aggressive and gets to the bucket," Kris Humphries said. "He might have dunked the ball more last game than in any other game that I've been in with him. When he plays like that, it's big for us."
Notes & quotes: The Nets will get their first look at rookie point guard Damian Lillard Sunday against Portland. Lillard, who is averaging 20.2 points and 6.0 assists per game, was drafted sixth overall by the Trail Blazers with the pick acquired from the Nets in the Gerald Wallace trade last March . . . Tornike Shengelia will miss the next two games with a sprained left thumb, an injury he suffered while working out Friday. He will be re-evaluated Tuesday.