Brook Lopez Goes Fourth to Great Effect

Nets get it done in crunch time with their All-Star on the court

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    Neither his brother nor P.J. Carlesimo could stop Brook Lopez on Tuesday.

    Add learning from his mistakes to the list of things P.J. Carlesimo does well. 

    Carlesimo left Brook Lopez on the bench for the third time in three post-All-Star break close games on Sunday, giving Lopez a front row seat for Brooklyn's inability to hold a five-point lead long enough to beat the Grizzlies.

    It was a strange decision made all the stranger by the fact that Lopez didn't seem to care a bit about playing the most important minutes in a game and by Carlesimo's strong rebuke of his own decision. 

    For the first seven minutes of the fourth on Tuesday, it seemed the Nets were heading back down the same path. Their lead shrunk from 12 late in the third quarter (and 22 earlier in the game) all the way down to four points while Andray Blatche took Lopez's minutes at center. 

    Blatche wasn't playing poorly, which was enough to keep him in the game the last three times the Nets went down the stretch in a close game. Carlesimo changed course, though, and returned Lopez to the lineup. 

    It went well for the Nets. Lopez scored six points to keep the team in front, Deron Williams scored the final 11 Brooklyn points and they snapped a brief two-game skid with a 101-97 road win. 

    Williams had a strong game -- 33 points -- after saying he didn't want to talk about his injuries again this year. If he keeps having games like that, he won't have any problem avoiding queries about his health unless someone decides to ask him about how well his ankles have responded to treatment. 

    The Lopez return to Carlesimo's good graces was the biggest story, though. With no Joe Johnson in the lineup again, Lopez was far too important a piece to be sitting on the bench in the crucial moments of the game. 

    It helped that he played better, perhaps inspired by his brother Robin's presence in the New Orleans lineup, but it helped even more that he was given the chance to play better. His overall line -- 20 points, seven rebounds, five assists, four blocks -- is a numerical illustration of how much he means to the Nets this season and how much they decided to play without against Memphis a few nights ago. 

    The Nets don't have a secret formula for success this season. They grind, keep the pace glacial and try to put the game in the hands of their most talented players at the biggest junctures to eke out close victories. 

    Remembering that Lopez is one of those players is something that should serve the team well the rest of the way. 

    Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.