Brooklyn Boro

Lopez takes heat for latest Net meltdown

Laments Own Performance Following 101-89 Loss to Jazz at Barclays

January 3, 2017 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brook Lopez took the blame following the Nets’ 101-89 home loss to the Utah Jazz Monday night at Downtown’s Barclays Center. AP Photos/Kathy Willens
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There’s plenty of blame to go around for why the Brooklyn Nets own the worst record in the NBA.

You can still fault former general manager Billy King for trading several years of the Nets’ first-round picks for a quick fix in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett back in 2013.

You can hold owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s feet to the fire for ousting five head coaches during the franchise’s first four years in our fair borough.

You can even blame Jeremy Lin’s worrisome hamstring troubles for leaving the Nets without a true floor leader for all but a dozen games thus far this season.

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But as the franchise’s longest-tenured and highest-paid player, Brook Lopez stepped up and willingly accepted more than his share of the blame following Monday night’s 101-89 loss to the Utah Jazz in front of 15,634 Brooklyn basketball fanatics at Downtown’s Barclays Center.

“I’m just very disappointed in myself,” said Lopez, who finished with 14 points on 6-of-16 shooting with six rebounds while the Nets were outscored by 16 points during his 31 minutes of playing time.

“I just hurt the team … I’m real mad at myself right now.”

The normally stoic, and at times even light-hearted Lopez was steamed after the Nets allowed a nine-point third quarter lead to evaporate, and found themselves down by double digits midway through the fourth.

“I didn’t play at the level we needed,” added the 7-foot Stanford alum, who is averaging team highs of 20.3 points and 1.8 blocks per game for the moribund Nets (8-25), who dropped a half game behind Philadelphia (8-24) and into the NBA basement.

Former Utah power forward Trevor Booker led Brooklyn with 17 points and 15 rebounds, and the Nets actually looked like a cohesive defensive unit after an embarrassing 118-95 loss in Washington on Friday night, one that featured its fair share of on-the-court bickering and finger-pointing.

At least for 2 1/2 quarters, that is.

Gordon Hayward’s 30-point effort helped fuel a furious 17-5 run for the Jazz (22-13), who outscored Brooklyn, 31-19, over the final 12 minutes to douse any hope that the Nets could actually even their home record at 8-8.

“The spirit was great tonight,” said always optimistic first-year head coach Kenny Atkinson.

“We were really, really connected on the defensive end. That’s a real positive from tonight, we competed, we competed hard together. Unfortunately, it was one of those nights shooting the ball.”

The Nets went 6-of-27 from 3-point range, managing to hit just one shot from beyond the arc following intermission.

Lopez, who has thrived from long distance of late, went 1-of-6 on 3-point attempts, grabbed six rebounds and committed a pair of turnovers as Brooklyn gave away the game.

“Our offense wasn’t great, obviously, we were 1-of-15 from three [point-range] in the second half,” Atkinson added. “You have to make some of those and we got some decent looks, but they are an excellent defensive team.”

Point guard Jeremy Lin missed his third straight game — all Net losses — since re-injuring the left hamstring that cost him 17 games earlier this season. Atkinson’s “quarterback” has not yet been given a timetable for his return, leaving Brooklyn to wander around the league like a mast-less ship.

“It’s in a different area [of the left hamstring], completely the other side,” Lin told the Associated Press. “Hurt a lot less when it happened [Dec. 26 vs. Charlotte], so I’m definitely encouraged.”

In Lin’s stead, rookie Isaiah Whitehead continues to develop as a legitimate force on the Nets’ roster.

The Lincoln High School legend and borough native had 12 points, six rebounds and an impressive blocked shot of 7-foot-1 Jazz center Rudy Gobert in the third quarter.

“We expect it from him because he plays hard, Brooklyn Grit to the fullest,” Rondae-Hollis Jefferson said of his teammate. “But I was still shocked. I was like ‘Wow, that’s amazing.’”

Hollis-Jefferson added 11 points off the bench for Brooklyn, which will try to snap a 13-game road losing streak Thursday night in Indiana.

“It’s kind of hard for us to bounce back sometimes, especially later in games,” the second-year small forward admitted.

Nothing But Net: Following their trip to Indy, the Nets will return to Brooklyn for a four-game homestand, beginning Friday night against LeBron James and the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers. Brooklyn will also host Philadelphia (Sunday), Atlanta (next Tuesday) and New Orleans (Jan. 12) … Whitehead is averaging 6.9 points and 2.9 assists over his first 26 NBA games … Booker’s 9.2 rebounds per contest lead the team, but he has grabbed at least 12 in three of the Nets’ last four games.


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