BROOKLYN, N.Y. — It’s easier to make light of an odd and potentially detrimental possession after a win versus a loss. That rings true of a sequence that left Brook Lopez apologizing to his head coach and Kenny Atkinson beside himself on the sidelines.
On the final play of the Brooklyn Nets matchup against the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday, Lopez drilled a one-footed step-back jump shot at the buzzer to lift Brooklyn to a 98-96 win at home. But a few possessions beforehand, the gifted scoring big man took a shot that could have cost Brooklyn a well-deserved win.
With 5:42 remaining in the fourth quarter and Brooklyn up five, Spencer Dinwiddie missed a layup, but Quincy Acy tapped the rebound out to the three-point line. The ball bounced into Lopez’s hands. Normally, the right play is to burn as much clock as you can and reset the offense to get a quality look.
Not this time.
Lopez chucked up a three-pointer with a full shot clock that careened off the glass and off the rim. He hadn’t realized his team recovered the offensive rebound, so he apologetically waved to Atkinson for his poor shot selection as he trotted back on defense.
The Nets’ head coach searched for a reason why his All-Star big man — who attended Stanford University — would have attempted such a self-destructive three-pointer.
“I think he thought the shot clock was running out,” Atkinson joked during his post-game press conference. “I don’t know what happened, I don’t know why he thought that (was a good shot). I mean, he’s a pretty smart guy. I just felt like he thought the shot clock was running out. That’s the only way he’d take said shot.”
As it turns out, Lopez had channeled his inner super hero, and before his late-game heroics at the buzzer, he felt he could bury the Pistons with a cold-blooded three-pointer. He wanted to be the 2009 Robert Horry, the Los Angeles Lakers‘ closer who buried the Sacramento Kings in the Western Conference Finals.
“I felt confident, honestly. It just happened to come right to me,” Lopez told reporters before cracking a smile. “If I’m being honest, I’m a Cali kid and growing up, I watched the Lakers a lot. So I was thinking about that [Robert Horry] three against Sacramento when Shaq tipped it out. But it wasn’t meant to be tonight.
“If I’m being honest, I don’t know where the clock was.”
The possession panned out. After a bone-crushing sequence of missed shots and offensive rebounds, Lopez tipped in a rimmed-out layup to extend Brooklyn’s lead to seven. He understood that shot was not part of the game plan, as did Atkinson.
Brooklyn is establishing a culture that does not accept a wasted possession. So while both Atkinson and Lopez had their fair share of laughs about the possession, they each realize the vibe could have been completely different had that shot cost the Nets the game. It’s a shot that hadn’t been unique to Tuesday night, but one that Lopez has learned to cut down on.
“We showed him one this morning in film. It was a two-point game in Dallas, and [Brook] could have swung the ball for a pick-and-roll but he did a jab, jab, three,” Atkinson said. “Those are the ones. He gets it. He’s gonna get better at it. But tonight we needed those threes.”
“I wasn’t perfect at the end of the game by any means, I wasn’t super pleased with myself,” Lopez added, “but our team stayed together and so many guys collectively made huge plays both on the offensive end and the defensive end.”