Weekend at Brook's: Lopez Hits Groove with Inside-Outside Game
Brook Lopez is one of the best offensive centers in the league, as he proved by snapping out of a five-game slump with consecutive dominant performances.
Leading into this week’s back-to-back against Portland and Brooklyn, the 29-year-old had averaged just 8.6 points on 34.8 percent shooting in his previous five games.
But then the Lakers got him going by feeding the big man in the post, and it was all buckets from there.
He dropped 27 points on 9-of-15 shooting against the Trail Blazers, but saved an even bigger performance for his first game against his former team.
The nine-year Net caught fire against his old squad, racking up 34 points, 10 rebounds, six 3-pointers and three blocks in the Lakers’ first 30-point double-double since Kobe Bryant three years ago.
Below are Lopez’s five baskets that best define his offensive breakthrough.
The Lakers had gone to Lopez early with two baskets in the paint, but trailed Portland by 10 in the second. Posted up against Jusuf Nurkic, Lopez put on a footwork clinic. He got the defender to commit inside with a spin move, then ripped through for a contested layup.
Up one with less than three minutes left, the Lakers went back to the well. Lopez — who scored the third-most post-up points of any player last year — schooled Nurkic with the spin move again.
This time he avoided a help defender’s steal attempt before twisting back for the tough fadeaway, as Nurkic was in a compromised position trying not to foul.
The Lakers ran a lot more pick-and-roll for Lopez in the next game, particularly early. Here, Lopez set a screen, but Lonzo Ball decided to take off against a slower D’Angelo Russell. The action created a mismatch for Lopez, who backed down the point guard with ease.
Small-ball power forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson tried to help but only made things worse, as Lopez sensed the help, waited for RHJ to jump for the block, and finished through contact for the and-1.
By this point, Lopez had already found his shooting rhythm with three 3-pointers, largely because (for some reason) Timofey Mozgov and Tyler Zeller played far too deep into the paint, giving a questionable amount of space to the player who hit more 3-pointers than any other center last year.
But this triple was much more hustle than lax coverage. The play started as a double screen for Brandon Ingram, while Lopez slipped to the rim. As Ingram tried posting up, Lopez stayed active, occupying the weak-side corner and jogging into the paint for a potential pass or offensive rebound.
When neither came to fruition, he essentially used Ingram as a screen while his defender, Zeller, was preoccupied with B.I.’s pass to Ball. Lonzo recognized Brook was open and quickly fired to the other side of the court for the trey at the end of the shot clock.
When the Nets cut the Lakers’ lead to four with only 3:45 left, Lopez punished Brooklyn’s microscopically small-ball lineup. With 6-foot-7 Hollis-Jefferson playing center, Lopez caught the ball on the 3-point arc and needed only two dribbles to power his way to the block.
There he had a quality look at one of his favorite shots, and got the right-handed hook to drop with a favorable bounce, ending Brooklyn’s comeback bid.
A cerebral player, Lopez also had three assists in these games, and each of those dimes was highlight-worthy.
Against Portland, he put his defender in the popcorn machine with a pump-fake from 3 and drove to the rim before delivering a shovel pass to Larry Nance Jr. for the easy dunk.
Then versus Brooklyn, he and Tyler Ennis showed some nice chemistry with a couple of well-timed bounce passes.