Two weeks after the Brooklyn Nets lost four of their five games, P.J. Carlesimo admitted that he needed to tighten the rotation and try new combinations in the frontcourt.
The main issue the Nets faced was lack of spacing.
Gerald Wallace and Reggie Evans are not good shooters, which allows opposing defenses to clog the paint and limit penetration from Deron Williams and Joe Johnson.
The interim head coach decided to fix this issue by pairing his two best big men: Brook Lopez and Andray Blatche. Both have great touch around the hoop, are capable shooters and opposing defenders are punished if they sag off of them.
Carlesimo told ESPN.com,
It's something that I'd like to look at more, but there's more teaching. ... It'll probably fall on Dray at the four spot. The four spot is not that different. It's not different than the five spot in a lot of the things we do. In some things we do it is different, like out of bounds [situations].
In yesterday's 108-98 win over the New Orleans Hornets, Carlesimo relied on the Lopez-Blatche duo down the stretch with great results. They played together in the third quarter and scored on their first four possessions, picking up a stagnant offense that let the Hornets tie the score.
Carlesimo's return to this lineup in the fourth quarter was the difference in the victory. The tandem facilitated a 14-6 run that the Hornets never recovered from.
Lopez spoke jubilantly about playing with Blatche to ESPN.com:
He has such a high basketball IQ, and he plays so well with everyone on the floor, which makes everyone's job a lot easier.
For most of the season, Lopez has been double-teamed in the post on most possessions by Evans's man because he isn't a threat on offense.
With Blatche's touch around the hoop and shooting range, Lopez carved up the man-to-man defense for 26 points, going an efficient 10-15 shooting. Meanwhile, Blatche chipped in 18 points on nine-15 from the field.
[Brook and I together] spread the floor more so people have the opportunity to penetrate. Brook is a great player. I love playing with him. Even today in practice, it's tough to defend—so many weapons, so many options. And it definitely gives us length. I played four my whole career, so it's not an adjustment I have to make.
The duo's offensive prowess enabled Deron Williams to get to the rim at will, and find his teammates for open looks, with 21 points and 13 assists. MarShon Brooks also slashed to the basket with ease, contributing 14 points off the bench.
Even with the Lopez-Blatche success, Carlesimo would be wise to keep Blatche coming off the bench because the Nets lack a viable alternative at center. Evans, Mirza Teletovic and Kris Humphries are all too small on offense and defense. In addition, Blatche provides a great spark off the bench and is better than almost all back-up centers in the NBA.
The solution is this: Carlesimo should give Blatche more playing time.
This season he has averaged under 19 minutes a game. Against the Hornets, he played 29 minutes.
If the Nets want to make a deep postseason run, the Nets need open up the offense through the dynamic duo of Lopez and Blatche.