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Lopez Piles Up Points, Can't Offset Nets' Early Struggles

March 29th, 2011

NEWARK, N.J.Still attempting to make an improbable run into the postseason, the Houston Rockets came to Newark and thoroughly outclassed the Nets in a 112-87 win. The Rockets starting backcourt of Kevin Martin (20 points, 4 rebounds) and Kyle Lowry (16 points, 10 assists) dominated a Nets team missing its best four perimeter defenders.

For more, read Jake Appleman's recap on NBA.com: Click Here

Lopez Piles Up Points, Can't Offset Nets' Early Struggles
By the second quarter of Tuesdays game against the Rockets, it was clear Brook Lopez had found the remedy for his offensive woes of the two previous games. It was also apparent the Nets would need much, much more help to have a chance at winning.

With Deron Williams out for a sixth straight game, the offense struggled to not only create shots, but also hit any; the Rockets took advantage early and often, racing out to a 34-21 lead after one behind 14 points and three assists from Kyle Lowry. The Rockets guard, in the midst of a breakout month thats included Western Conference Player of the Week honors, finished with 16 points, seven rebounds and 10 assits in 29 minutes, leading his team to a convincing 112-87 victory.

Hes tough, said Nets coach Avery Johnson. Because I live in the area, I know him and Ive watched him and Ive watched his maturation. When (the Rockets) matched the offer sheet that Cleveland gave him (as a restricted free-agent) this summer, you understand why. They traded (Aaron Brooks) just to give him the spot. Hes really turned out to be a fine guard: good body, much improved three-point shooter, terrific defensively, hard-nosed kind of player.

Lowrys effort helped mitigate an impressive second-quarter performance by Lopez, who forcefully positioned himself in the post as the offense ran through him the entire time. He scored 15 points in the period, on an array of post moves and faceup jumpers, at one point pulling the Nets within 12 by scoring seven of nine points during a 90-second, 9-2 run.

Lopez showed a willingness to pass out of the double-team, notably connecting with Jordan Farmar early on for a three, but as his teammates shots kept clanking, his effectiveness dwindled. The third-year center added only four in the third before being benched, along with the rest of the starters, for the final 12 minutes. Excepting Lopezs 10-of-16 performance, the Nets finished the game shooting 23-of-73 (.369); Houston outrebounded them 56-42.

We just werent in it from the start, Lopez said. (My second quarter) went well, but we didnt really get stops or rebounds, so it was tough.

With a nationally televised game against the Knicks tomorrow at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m, ESPN), the Nets will need to quickly regroup and attempt to erase the sting of consecutive poor performances. Johnson said postgame that he knew there would be long nights when he signed on as coach, and hes held to preaching process so the development can continue, even as he enters the final nine games assured of missing the playoffs for the first time in his coaching career.

Though the players all have individual goals set for them by the coaching staff, the one team goal Johnson outline at this mornings shootaround was improved transition defense. And with his top four defenders (Williams, Damion James, Quinton Ross, Sundiata Gaines) all injured, the Nets couldnt contain the Rockets' run-and-gun responses to all those missed jumpers; Houston scored 19 fast-break points to nine for the Nets.

I dont know what happened, said Nets guard Sasha Vujacic, who scored 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting. I dont know what the purpose was, of us playing like that. We tried, we wanted to win, obviously, but weve got to flush that one down the toilet. Tomorrow is probably the biggest game of the season, and weve got to come with the right mentality.


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