By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Nets have four days off to tweak their new look. Let's call it Big and Bigger.
After flirting with putting his two centers on the floor at the same time for the past few weeks, Brooklyn interim coach P.J. Carlesimo finally went all the way Tuesday night at the Barclays Center.
All-Star Brook Lopez and Andray Blatche gave the sellout crowd of 17,332 an indication of how well they can play together, combining for 44 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and four blocked shots in the Nets' 108-98 victory over the New Orleans Hornets.
“I thought their interaction was good,” Carlesimo said as his team matched its high water mark for the season at 11 games above .500. “They both can pass the ball decently and I thought they did a little bit of everything: they scored, they rebounded and they had some assists.”
Though they spent just over 12 minutes on the floor, the dynamic duo presented serious matchup problems for the underwhemling Hornets, who own the league's worst record at 14-50, something the team formerly known as the New Jersey Nets could have related to over the previous five non-playoff campaigns in the Garden State.
"The whole team has to pay attention to where they are at all times," noted Nets point guard Deron Williams, who resumed his post All-Star Game resurgence with 21 points, 13 assists and only two turnovers. "We can also throw it down to either one of them on the block and let them go to work. Especially when they’re shooting the ball the way they are. They’re really hard to guard."
Lopez, who is accustomed to wathing Blatche from the bench, certainly enjoyed having the 6-foot-11 Syracuse native serve as his wingman in the paint.
''"Andray makes the game easier for me,'' said the 7-foot Stanford alum after pouring in a game-high 26 points, including 10 in a row during the third quarter. ''You see Andray playing out there like that, I want him to play the entire game then. The great thing about our bigs, there are a lot of good players there who can do different things, so we can have a lot of combinations.''
Blatche had 18 points, five boards and three assists in 28 minutes as the Nets won for the fourth time in five games entering their last extended break before their own version of March Madness.
After the four-day reprieve, Brooklyn will host the Hawks on Sunday before embarking on a season-high eight-game road trip featuring visits to Detroit, Dallas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Portland, Denver, Utah and Cleveland over the following 11 days.
Using Lopez and Blatche together to counter the absence of Joe Johnson worked to perfection Tuesday night as the shooting guard sat out with a nagging left heel injury.
Williams believes going big can give opponents something more to worry about when the Nets hit the road.
“They’re two 7-footers out there at the same time," he noted. "They’re long. They take up a lot of space inside. They alter shots. They block shots. They make teams think about it when they come in the lane.”
Hoop du Jour: Carlesimo intimated that G Johnson could have played Tuesday, but he didn't want to push him in the Nets' fourth game in five nights, especially with a four-day layoff ahead. ... With Tuesday's win, the Nets moved within two games of idle New York for first place in the Atlantic Division and jumped two full games in front of Chicago for fourth place in the race for the coveted fourth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. ... G MarShon Brooks made a big contribution off the bench against the Hornets, scoring 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting in 23 minutes. ... G C.J. Watson started in Johnson's spot and managed only four points in 33 minutes, but did grab four rebounds to go with an assist and a steal. ... Lopez monster-dunked on twin brother Robin during Tuesday's game while holding his former Stanford teammate to 15 points and eight boards. 'I am not going to talk to him," Brook chuckled afterward. ''I will expect the rest of my family to talk trash to him.''