Brook Lopez gets back in the game and helps lead the Lakers to victory in return to Brooklyn
Brook Lopez already had one dessert in his locker after the game — a Nutella calzone from a shop down the street from the Barclays Center. Then a Nets employee brought him an Oreo cake, a gift from an arena worker. They always gave Lopez the cake on his birthday, but Friday night marked Lopez’s only trip this season to the arena where he spent the first nine years of his NBA career, and his birthday is in April.
For a night, Lopez got a reprieve from all the challenges that have come with his 2017-18 season. He scored 19 points, the most he’s scored since Nov. 19, and the Lakers defeated the Nets, 102-99. Both the Nets fans and Lakers fans (of which there were plenty) in the building, cheered him warmly throughout.
“It was great,” Lopez said. “It was such an awesome moment. That’s the kind of stuff you dream about as a kid, and to see that kind of support from both Laker fans and Nets fans, it’s really awe inspiring.”
Lopez and Julius Randle led the Lakers with 19 points each. Brooklyn guard Spencer Dinwiddie led all scorers with 23 points and rookie Jarrett Allen scored 20 points.
With Lonzo Ball still out until at least Tuesday with a sprained knee, the Lakers tried a different lineup. Rather than starting Tyler Ennis at point guard and Brandon Ingram at small forward, the Lakers started Josh Hart with Ingram handling many of the point guard duties.
Hart responded by scoring 15 points with a career-high 14 rebounds. Ingram nearly notched a triple-double, with 16 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.
But the man of the night was Lopez.
The Nets traded Lopez to the Lakers in the final year of his contract, but there were plenty in the building who missed him. That started with Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, who taught Lopez how to modernize his game.
Lopez made a three-pointer to open the game. After the first quarter, the Nets showed a video tribute thanking Lopez for his nine years with the organization that drafted him.
In the third quarter he made back-to-back long three-pointers to bring the Lakers within one of the Nets, after they had squandered a nine-point lead they had late in the second quarter.
In the third quarter Lopez scored 12 points with two rebounds. The 17 points he scored through three quarters matched his scoring against the Chicago Bulls one week prior. In that game, Lopez didn’t play at all in the fourth quarter — something that has become a trend that has frustrated him.
In his homecoming, Lopez played 5:07 in the fourth quarter, scoring two points. With the score tied after three quarter, the Lakers held on to win thanks to their defense. While the Lakers made only six of 21 shots in the fourth quarter, the Nets only made five of 22 and scored 14 points.
“He had a huge block down the stretch; Allen was killing us on his rolling,” Lakers Coach Luke Walton said of Lopez’s rejection with four minutes to play. “He recognized it, got there late, but he had a big block for us there, hit those big threes obviously. … Brook was great tonight, he did a good job. We don’t win that game without him.”
As the clock expired, Lopez, grinning, embraced his former teammates one by one.
“I had such a fantastic time here,” Lopez said in the postgame locker room. About half an hour had passed and he was still smiling.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli
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