For most of this season, Andray Blatche seemed to be searching.
Blatche, a ninth-year veteran, didn't seem to know where he fit in with the Nets' new veteran All-Stars and future Hall of Famers. In the past two games, however, the 6-11 Blatche appears to have found his place. He came off the bench to score 21 points against the Clippers on Thursday night and 20 against the Pistons on Friday night.
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It marked the first time in his 105 games as a Net that Blatche has posted back-to-back 20-point games. His teammates have noticed that he seems to be gaining a new comfort level with his role on the team.
"I think he started the season and he was thinking a lot and wasn't sure when to pick his moments," point guard Deron Williams said. "Now he's just playing the game. He's done a great job for us off the bench."
Blatche said he got a lot of support and encouragement from his teammates early in the season as he tried to figure out where he could best contribute.
"Right now, I'm feeling a lot more confident. I'm a lot more aggressive,' he said. "A lot of guys said, 'Dray, you have to be the player you are. We believe in you. Take your shot.' "
Blatche, however, said he isn't the only one whose mentality has changed on the team. Even though the Nets' loss to the Pistons Friday night ended their winning streak at a season-high three games, the Nets cut a 21-point fourth-quarter deficit to two and had a chance to win the game in the final minute.
"This team a couple of weeks ago might not have come back," Blatche said. "We have a lot of fight and we're getting better as a team. It shows we're getting better. We're starting to trust one another."
Notes & quotes: Brook Lopez expects to play in Monday's game against the 76ers. Lopez left the Clippers game with a sprained right ankle but has said it's not serious. The Nets are 1-7 without Lopez this season . . . Friday's game was Paul Pierce's third straight off the bench, and probably his best performance in that capacity. Pierce scored 12 points, including a three-pointer late in the game. Pierce, however, doesn't seem overly enamored of his new role. When asked after the game if he is getting used to it, he responded: "It is what it is. I have no complaints. I just have to go out there and be professional and do my job."