The New Jersey Nets ended their dreadful eight-game losing streak with a dominating win over the Chicago Bulls. On the eve of the long-awaited return of Brook Lopez, the Nets made a statement against one of the top teams in basketball.
Derrick Rose was out because of an injury. However, the Bulls were continuing to play well without him. The Nets won 97-85 and gave the Bulls just their second loss this season at home. They got off to a 22-3 lead in the first five minutes and never looked back.
One thing that was evident in the game for the Nets was consistency, which is what they have been lacking all season. Their consistency and team field-goal percentage will increase with the addition of Lopez in their everyday lineup.
But will his return and presence be enough to get the Nets in the playoffs?
The Nets currently sit 6.5 games out of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. The eight-game losing streak put them in a deep hole. With 34 games left in the season, the Nets will have to put together a few winning streaks if they want to really get back in the playoff hunt.
Lopez makes the Nets a more complete team and fills one of the major holes in their roster. The Nets have basically been without a center all season as Mehmet Okur has been injured but pretty ineffective when healthy, and Johan Petro continues to be one of the worst players in basketball.
In his first three seasons in the league, Lopez has averaged 17.4, 7.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. In the 2010-11 season, he averaged 20.4 points per game. Having Lopez back will open up the offense for everyone.
Deron Williams said before the Bulls game that Lopez will take the pressure off him and open things up. Williams has turned his season around lately, and the return of the Nets' starting center should only help.
Lopez has been criticized for his lack of rebounding. However, with Shelden Williams and Kris Humphries, Lopez doesn't really need to be a big-time rebounder. Still, in his first two seasons Lopez averaged 8.4 rebounds per game. Lopez admitted he was a lazy rebounder last season and is determined to improve that aspect of his game.
He already is one of the best scoring centers, and an improvement in his rebounding will only make him climb up the ranks of top players in the league. In the time that he spent recovering from his broken foot, he has apparently put on 10 pounds of muscle, which will only help make him a more dominating force down low.
The Nets could make a push at the playoffs because of Lopez, but will the push be enough to get them in? The road for the Nets with Lopez starts against the Bucks as he makes his 2011-12 season debut.