Nets all-time leading scorer Brook Lopez returned to Barclays Center on Friday night for the first time since his nine-season run with the franchise ended when he was traded to the Lakers on June 22 as part of a deal that brought D’Angelo Russell. Struggling recently while averaging career-low points and minutes, Lopez hoped to reprise his season-high 34-point effort in a November victory over the Nets in Los Angeles.
Lopez got the happy ending he was seeking, scoring 19 points, fueling a third-quarter comeback and making a key basket with 1:29 left that helped push the Lakers to a 102-99 victory. The Nets had a chance to tie it at the end, but Joe Harris missed a left-wing three-pointer at the buzzer.
Lopez not only enjoyed the outcome but received a warm welcome from the fans and a video tribute after the first quarter.
“It was great,” he said of his reception during introductions. “It was such an awesome moment. That’s the kind of stuff you dream about as a kid, and to see that kind of support from both the Laker and Nets fans, it’s really an onslaught. I can’t thank them enough for the continued support.”
Regarding the video of his nine-season career, Lopez added: “It was fantastic . . . especially those rookie-year and second-year pictures and videos. I can’t believe it has been that long. It doesn’t feel that long at all. It was so touching. I can’t thank them enough. I had a fantastic time here.”
After scoring five first-half points, Lopez got himself and the crowd going with 12 third-quarter points, including a pair of three-pointers in the middle of an 11-0 run that gave the Lakers an 80-78 lead.
In the fourth quarter, the Nets had an 8-0 surge, including two baskets by rookie starting center Jarrett Allen, to cut their deficit to one. At one point, Allen blocked a shot by Lopez and Lopez returned the favor.
When asked how it felt to go against the player he essentially replaced, Allen said: “I wouldn’t call it replacing Brook. Brook is one of a kind, from what I hear. I’m just trying to see where I’m at against him.”
At crunch time, Lopez delivered a short jumper for a 101-97 Lakers lead, and they held on from there.
“Shout-out to Brook,” Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie said. “He [sparked] their comeback . . . He really kept them in it.”
Julius Randle had 19 points and 12 rebounds for the Lakers (20-31). The Nets (19-34) were led by Dinwiddie’s 23 points and nine assists, Allen’s 20 points and Russell’s 15. They really lost the game on the boards as the Lakers outrebounded them 56-38, which led to a 23-10 advantage in second-chance points.
The Nets had a chance to force overtime and drew up a left-wing three-pointer that Harris (11 points, seven rebounds) missed.
“That’s a play that we’ve executed in practice, so there was some familiarity with it,” he said. “I had a great look at it. That’s all you can ask for is a clean look at the basket. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it.”