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Features

We all forgot about Brook Lopez

July 3, 2021, 9:59 AM ● Miguel Flores

Brook Lopez, who was once a franchise player, came up big for the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 5.

It's easy to forget, but Brook Lopez was once a franchise cornerstone. He was the face of the Nets' transition from New Jersey to Brooklyn. When Brooklyn's experiment to get rich quick – trading for Deron Williams and aging stars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce – failed, Lopez continued carrying the Nets, easily averaging 20 points and around eight rebounds each season. He's still the Nets all-time leading scorer, and he did it without taking 3s. 

Lopez, like many ground-bound centers who came into the league in the 2010s, gradually evolved his game to survive the phasing out of post-ups. He developed legit three-point range. Combine that with his solid interior defense, Lopez has extended his career to a 13th year. He's a valuable asset to a Milwaukee team that needs to surround Giannis Antetokounmpo with shooters to maximize the two-time MVP’s immense gifts.

This has been Lopez’s career since leaving Brooklyn in 2017: a role player. Anything more than 11 points, six rebounds, and a block is considered gravy from Lopez.

Heading into Game 5, the Bucks needed a lot of extras from their supporting cast. Giannis was out after hyperextending his left knee in Game 4. That's more than 30 points and 12 rebounds per game that needed to be made up in some way. The Bucks still had Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, but the Hawks just showed they could beat Milwaukee without Trae Young. Someone else needed to step up.

Unlike Donny Glover from Lethal Weapon, Lopez was not too old for this. From the start of Game 5, the Bucks played with noticeably more zip than the Hawks, especially on defense. Lopez played a role in this. The Bucks discarded their usual drop coverage earlier than usual, despite playing two centers in lieu of Giannis’ absence. Still, Lopez held his own as Milwaukee switched on plenty of Atlanta's screen actions. When he found himself in the paint, Lopez inhaled shots.

On offense, we got sort of a throwback performance as Lopez got most of his points in the points. He didn't post-up as much as he made quick moves to the basket through cuts and one-dribble post moves.


Lopez finished the game with 33 points, on 14-for-18 shooting, and seven rebounds. The Hawks had nothing for Brooklyn Brook. The Bucks are now one win away from their first Finals appearance since 1974.

“I'm just trying to go out there and help my team in whatever way possible – whether it's playing that new modern stretch game or be it inside,” said Lopez. “I'm prepared for whatever is asked of me by the team.”

As a massive pro wrestling fan, Brook Lopez should appreciate a comparison to Shelton Benjamin – someone who can still work as a middle of the card performer and carry a main event storyline when he's called to do it.

Brook Lopez was only an All-Star once. It's easy to underestimate that feat. It's easy to overlook how difficult it is to play at such a high level. Lopez reminded us that he has another gear.

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