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.
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."