The Dallas Mavericks provided a helping hand in boosting Brook Lopez’s stock, as the skilled 7-footer upped his trade value by leading the lottery-bound New Jersey Nets to an improbable 93-92 win over the defending NBA champions on Tuesday night at American Airlines Center.
Dallas, along with the rest of the Association, discovered just how valuable of an asset the Nets’ center truly is. Lopez, playing in just his third game of the season, lit up the Mavs for a season-high 38 points, one short of his career high, on 17-of-28 shooting from the field, including two decisive free throws with 42 seconds left that put New Jersey up a point and halted the Mavericks’ late-game rally. With Lopez back, it’s clear that the Nets are an improved team.
“He was a monster tonight,” stated Deron Williams, the Nets All-Star point guard, who finished with a double-double (12 points, 12 assists). “He carried us from the start of the game. It makes a difference, as I’ve said all season, once we get him back, we become a different team. You saw that a lot tonight.”
Lopez, who returned to the Nets lineup on Feb. 19, missed nearly the first two months of the truncated season due to a broken right foot. But once inserted back into the starting lineup, the third-year pro out of Stanford, didn’t waste any time in making his presence felt on the court. He dominated the Mavs with an array of moves in the paint –drives, post-ups, and finishes off defensive breakdowns- and even displayed his sweet 20-footer jumper. After Lopez converted the go-ahead foul shots, the Mavs’ Jason Kidd, whose 3-pointer prior briefly put Dallas up 92-91, missed a jumper with 25.9 seconds left and then his desperate heave at the final buzzer fell short after the Nets’ suffocating defense prevented Dirk Nowitzki (24 points) from getting the shot he wanted. Kidd finished with only three points.
Lopez’s game-high of 38 points, were the most points against the Mavericks since LeBron James dropped 37 for Miami in the season opener on Christmas Day. The Nets are the frontrunners to potentially acquire Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic before the March 15 trade deadline. The Mavericks have made it known that they want to pair Howard and the Nets’ Williams, who is also a Dallas native, to join Nowitzki. Assuming the Magic’s general manager Otis Smith checked out Tuesday’s game, Lopez’s stellar performance clearly will make things more interesting as the deadline approaches.