Surprise! Brook Lopez plays back-to-back games

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, right, guards Brook

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, right, guards Brook Lopez during the second half of a game in Chicago. (Dec. 15, 2012) (Credit: AP)

CHICAGO -- Brook Lopez is all the way back.

With the Nets playing on consecutive nights, the initial assumption Friday was that their starting center wouldn't suit up for Saturday night's matchup against the Bulls. But just before the game, coach Avery Johnson said Lopez -- who returned Friday after missing seven games with a sprained ligament in his right foot -- would start.

"We visited with our team doctors about it last night," Johnson said. "He's medically cleared to play in back-to-back games right now. We talked to Brook, he feels great. So we'll put him out there and we'll see how he feels and see how he moves."

Lopez had 18 points and 10 rebounds in 25:20 in the Nets' 83-82 loss to the Bulls. He had nine points and four rebounds in 23:50 in Friday's double-overtime win over the Pistons. The Nets want to be cautious, given that he's had three injuries to the same foot in an 11-month span. That's why having him play Saturday night was a bit of a surprise.

"We've gone through all our systems and checks, and we've been really conservative," Johnson said. "But again, everything that we've checked out, there seems like there's no signs of danger. He's excited about it. And we'll just go on from there."

Watson regaining rhythm

C.J. Watson was in a familiar place Saturday night. He played for the Bulls the previous two seasons, though his final moments with that team weren't his best. Fans weren't happy with Watson's decision in the closing seconds of Game 6 of the top-seeded Bulls' first-round playoff matchup against the 76ers last season. With Chicago up by one, Watson passed to Omer Asik rather than take the shot. Asik missed, and the Bulls lost the game and the series.

Watson had a hot start with the Nets, then cooled off. But Johnson likes what he's seeing from the guard lately.

"I think he's starting to find his rhythm a little bit," Johnson said. "As a coaching staff, we had to figure out exactly how we wanted to use him. But he's back to playing C.J. Watson defense, he's shooting the ball better. We kind of know some of his favorite spots now where he likes to operate."

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