One of the uglier games the NBA has seen in quite some time ended on Thursday night with the Brooklyn Nets on the wrong side of the scoreboard.
After dropping an 79-76 decision to the Bulls on Thursday night, the Nets trail their best-of-seven series, 2-1. Game 3 will be played on Saturday afternoon in Chicago before the teams return to Brooklyn for Game 5 on Monday.
Though the Nets made a late rally in Chicago on Thursday night, the final box score was not indicative of how poorly the Nets offense functioned for much of the game. The team shot just 28 percent from the field through the first three quarters.
And even though Brook Lopez was just 4-for-12 through those first three quarters, he ended the night 8-for-16 from the field, hitting his final four shots.
For Lopez, this has been the quintessential "breakout" season, and after his first three playoff games, that is still true.
By the time it was all said and done, Lopez did something that no NBA player has done in a playoff game since 2008.
Heading into the series, a lot was made of whether or not Lopez would wilt under the pressure of playoff basketball, but thus far, the opposite has been true. The Bulls are renown for being one of the NBA's tougher defensive teams and they have no shortage of big bodies for Lopez to contend with down low.
How far he has come as a player was on full display during Thursday night's Game 3, and many of the good that he did does not show up in the box score—though he did turn in a very impressive stat line.
By the end of the night, Lopez had turned in a very solid 22 points, nine rebounds and seven blocked shots.
With that, Lopez turned in the NBA's first 20-point, seven-rebound, seven-block playoff game since Dwight Howard recorded 19 points, 16 rebounds and eight blocks in Game 4 of the Orlando Magic's matchup with the Toronto Raptors.
When general manager Billy King re-signed Lopez this past summer, the hope was that the big man would develop and ultimately prove that his promise was worth the four-year, $60 million contract.
This past season, Lopez has responded by leading all centers in the league in scoring with 19.4 points per game and earning his the first All-Star berth of his career. He was easily the most consistent Net over the course of the entire season—one in which Lopez managed to play 74 games.
Now, through the first three playoff games of his career, Lopez is averaging 21.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.3 blocks per game. He is shooting 49 percent from the field and has shot 20-for-21 from the free-throw line.
Most impressively? He is doing that against one of the more intimidating front lines in the entire NBA.
Lopez was complementary of the Bulls front line after Game 3. "They're very good at packing in the paint and helping each other out," he said.
And as for Game 4, Lopez thinks that the Nets will be ready. "I think it's just a matter of sticking together," he said. "Our guys are very good at that, we're still cheering each other on.
"We made a run late in the game, I think we're gonna come out with great energy in Game 4. They stole one on our home court and that's what we have to do here."
If he keeps on playing the way he has, it will certainly bode well for the Nets chances.