NEW YORK — Any concerns over how Brook Lopez would respond in his first postseason have disappeared, as has any debate over who is the best player in this series following the Nets' 110-91 Game 5 win on Monday evening.
The real question at this point is whether or not Lopez, following a career year and his first All-Star selection, is the best true big man in these NBA playoffs.
Marc Gasol, who is averaging 18.3 points and 7.5 rebounds for the Memphis Grizzlies through four games against the Los Angeles Clippers may have something to say about that, but Lopez is certainly in the discussion.
Averaging 22.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.3 blocks over the first four games of this series entering Game 5, Lopez went for 28 points on 11-for-20 shooting and 10 rebounds in 36 minutes of work to help the Nets force a Game 6 on Thursday evening back in Chicago.
"He hasn't played good, he's played extremely well on both ends," Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "He's played a complete game and I think he's been very aggressive, which is really good. It's not like he wasn't a good player before this year, I just think he's taken it to a new level."
A notoriously fast starter, Lopez came out firing on Monday, scoring 11 points on 4-for-7 shooting while playing all 12 minutes of the opening quarter. As fast as Lopez has been known to start games, he has also been known to disappear at times after those hot starts. That was not the case on Monday, nor has that been the case throughout this series.
He had 17 points at halftime on 6-for-10 shooting as a 4-foot runner in the lane gave the Nets their biggest lead of the first half at 52-42 with 54.7 seconds to play in the second quarter.
"He's been amazing all year, it's no surprise or a shock to us," Andray Blatche said of Lopez scoring at least 20 points in all five playoff games. "I'm kinda used to that now. I expect that out of him. It's big, we need that."
Within Lopez's monster series is the fact he has thoroughly outplayed another All-Star in Joakim Noah. Granted, Noah has been hobbled by a case of plantar fasciitis in his left foot, but the defensive-minded center has been able to average 26 minutes per game in this series and appears to be getting healthier and more mobile with each passing game.
"Making the All-Star team was great, having the kind of year he had was great, but if he comes into the playoffs and continues to play the way he's played, that's solidifying his position," Carlesimo said. "I think he's got a legit shot to be on one of the three All-NBA teams and I think he's deserving of that."
Josh Newman is SNYNets.com’s Field Reporter. Follow him on Twitter for up to the minute news and banter on all things related to the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA