There was never much of a chance that Brook Lopez was going to play Tuesday, but the Nets’ frontline depth took hit with Reggie Evans out with flu-like symptoms.
Evans is one of the Nets’ most valuable pieces, coming off the bench and setting a tone defensively as well as on the glass. So not having him is going to make things all that more difficult against a high-scoring and talented Thunder team led by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
“That’s a big blow for our team,” Avery Johnson said after the Nets’ Tuesday morning shootaround at the Barclays Center. “Reggie is our enforcer, rebounder, best pick-and roll-defender, and on and on. He’s our fighter -- literally.
“When you’ve got [Serge] Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins out there and [Nick] Collison, we are going to miss him. But this will give other guys a chance to probably play a little bit more. As a team, we have to make up Reggie’s rebound production and we’ve got to do it collectively. So, it’s a big challenge, but we’ll have to overcome it.”
Without Evans, might the Nets be forced to play smaller?
“It just depends,” Johnson said. “They like to play small a little bit, but I wouldn’t even call Durant playing small at four. He’s a 7-footer than can play three or four, so we’ll have to adjust as need be, and fortunately we have Gerald, who’s a pretty versatile player. And we have some other guys that can help out in that department.”
The Nets haven’t really employed a zone defense, in part because Johnson wants them to be more of a hard-nosed defensive squad, noting that hardly any team has won the NBA crown while utilizing a mostly zone defensive set. So while he didn’t totally rule it out, don’t expect to see the Nets break it out.
“Coming into this year, that was one of our goals – not to play a lot of zone at all,” Johnson said. “I’ve used it in the past as a tool and maybe sometime in the future we may use it. We like our fullcourt press a lot more when we go to that instead of our zone halfcourt defense. Everything is always on the table, but we take pride in being a good man-to-man defensive team.”