The New Jersey Nets plan to ease Brook Lopez back into action
from a broken right foot, but there’s nothing easy about Lopez’s
next assignment considering how he’s been dominated by Dwight
Howard has helped the Orlando Magic win eight straight over the
Nets heading into Wednesday night’s matchup at the Prudential
Lopez made his season debut with nine points and two rebounds in
22 minutes Sunday as the Nets suffered their sixth straight home
loss, 92-85 to Milwaukee.
“It felt good,” Lopez said. “My arch was a little sore, but I
think that was just the orthotic. It was just exciting to be out
there playing with the guys.”
Coach Avery Johnson opted to rest Lopez during a 100-92 win at
New York on Monday, indicating he will be back in the lineup
Waiting for him will be Howard, who had 16 points and 24 boards
to lead Orlando (21-12) to a 94-78 win at New Jersey on Dec.
“Of course it changes things because now they have someone to
drop it into in the low post,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said of
Lopez’s return. “So they’ll be considerably better and have more
options on that end of the floor plus obviously they’re a lot
bigger so it helps them a lot.”
The 7-foot, 265-pound Lopez, however, hasn’t been much of a
factor against the 6-11, 265-pound Howard in the past. He’s
averaged 13.7 points, 38.0 percent shooting and 5.3 rebounds over
the last seven head-to-head meetings – all below his career
averages – as Orlando won each one.
Howard has averaged 20.4 points and 64.1 percent from the field
to go along with 14.7 rebounds in those seven games. The Magic
center has also been more imposing defensively with 25 blocks
compared to seven for Lopez in that span.
While the Magic seem to have an edge up front, the Nets’
advantage lies in the backcourt with Deron Williams, who scored a
season-high 38 points Monday to emphatically win his point guard
matchup with Knicks sensation Jeremy Lin.
“We definitely had this game circled,” Williams said. “We’d be
lying if we say we didn’t.”
Williams has faced Orlando once with New Jersey (10-24), scoring
10 points and shooting 2 of 12 in December, but the Magic are wary
of the All-Star guard.
“He’s one of the best in the league,” Van Gundy said. “It’s
never easy when you play him.”
Orlando won for the fifth time in six games Monday, 93-90 at
Milwaukee. Howard recorded his East-leading 26th double-double with
28 points and 16 boards and Ryan Anderson hit a go-ahead 3-pointer
with 18.1 seconds left.
“Both teams played hard, but we were just able to close it out,”
Howard said. “We stayed with it and stayed together and got a good
Anderson, a first-round pick by the Nets in 2008, has made 15 of
his last 26 3s and is shooting a team-best 44.0 percent from beyond
Magic guard Jason Richardson has missed the last two games with
a chest virus, but could return Wednesday.
The Nets have not dropped seven in a row at home since a 14-game
slide Jan. 29-March 22, 2010.