Brook Lopez coming up big in Nets' postseason
A statistical nugget regarding Brook Lopez's run through the first five games of the Nets' playoff series with the Bulls was relayed to Andray Blatche, causing his facial expression to change.
Upon learning that Lopez had topped 20 points in each contest so far, Blatche sported a devilish grin, almost as if he was a kid caught with his hand in the candy jar before eating dinner.
"That's amazing," Blatche said, sitting in front of his locker after the Nets fought off the Bulls on Monday night, forcing a Game 6 at United Center in Chicago Thursday. "He's been amazing all year. It's no surprise or shock to us. I'm kind of used to that now. I expect it out of him. It's big and we need that."
The Nets' 7-foot center has been unfazed in his first trip to the postseason, turning in impressive performances against Chicago's rugged offensive line, often displaying more of an aggressive nature than he employed during the regular season. Averaging a team-best 23.6 points to go with eight rebounds -- four offensive -- and 3.4 blocks, Lopez is the first Net to register 20-plus points in at least five consecutive playoff contests since Vince Carter did it in eight straight in 2007.
"I think it's just the way the game has been going," Lopez said Monday night. "We've been playing through our offense, running through it well and my teammates have been giving me great looks where I can finish easily around the rim. Whoever is scoring at the time is going to get the ball. We have a lot of guys who can put the ball in the bucket."
Particularly when interim coach P.J. Carlesimo elects to pair Lopez with Blatche at power forward -- something he's utilized more in the last two games of the series.
Take a gander at these numbers: During their 36 minutes together on the floor in the series overall, they are plus-38, outscoring the Bulls 91-53. In the eight minutes the Lopez-Blatche combo was on the floor in Monday's win, when they went a combined 9-for-13 from the field and 8-for-10 from the free-throw line, the Nets were plus-14 and outpaced Chicago 27-13.
"We've said all year that we like the two of them together as long as we match up," Carlesimo said on a conference call Tuesday. "We think it's a good matchup and for the most part, the Bulls are big. You've got two bigs on the floor, so it's something we'll look at."
The Nets' combo has its flaws, though. Neither Lopez nor Blatche are exactly rebounding machines, and remember, it was Blatche whom Nazr Mohammed tossed aside like a piece of rubbish in the closing minutes of the Bulls' Game 4 triple-overtime win. Mohammed outworked Blatche for an offensive rebound, then stuck it back up and in to seal Chicago's stunning comeback victory.
Those are the kinds of things that Carlesimo and his staff take into account when determining the appropriate time to go to the Lopez-Blatche duo.
"Sometimes how difficult it is for somebody to guard us doesn't trump doing it at the other end of the court," Carlesimo said. "That wasn't the case [Monday], but when we have this matchup, and we feel good about going to either one of them, and we are not stopping them at the other end or the team is kicking our butts on the boards, that trumps it.
"So what that we are better offensively if we are giving up second shots or we are not defending these guys at all?"
Notes & quotes: Carlesimo said Blatche, who tweaked a calf injury suffered Saturday, felt "very, very sore" after the game.