In Thursday night’s 92-90 loss to the Bulls -- who were playing without Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Marco Belinelli, Richard Hamilton and Derrick Rose -- the Nets were outscored 29-20 in the third quarter, committed eight turnovers in the final period, were outrebounded 46-30 overall and blew a 16-point lead.
But Lopez committed a turnover and missed two shots in the last 60 seconds. And that’s why his lousy late-game performance -- which overshadowed a solid 28-point effort in which he went 8-for-9 from the field in the first quarter -- was under the microscope.
“It’s tough just because our team was playing so well for the majority of the game,” said Lopez, who went just 2-for-10 from the field in the final three quarters. “I contributed a lot to how the final score ended up. That’s definitely something I’m not happy with or proud of.”
The Nets were ahead 90-89 with 32.7 seconds left when Lopez threw an errant pass out of the post, intended for Deron Williams, that was picked off by Nate Robinson. And Robinson dropped in what turned out to be the game-winning floater at the other end because Brooklyn’s 25-year-old center was late getting over to help.
On the Nets’ ensuing possession, Lopez got the ball inside, but was too far under the basket, and his layup attempt was blocked by Nazr Mohammed. Then, Lopez missed a wide-open 17-foot jump shot from the baseline that would’ve tied the game as time expired.
“Let’s start with [the turnover]. I felt like I was in the key for a little, so I was looking through my options of where to kick it out to. I was trying to find D-Will or Joe Johnson. It was just a terrible play on my part,” Lopez said. “The next play, D-Will hit me with a good pass, and I didn’t finish strong enough, and the same thing happened on the next play: I got a good look and it didn’t go down. But at that point, though, you can’t really blame the last play for what happened previously.”
Williams, who posted 10 assists, scored 20 of his game-high 30 points in the second half and carried the Nets down the stretch. He said he didn’t need to say anything to Lopez, who was visibly upset while answering questions at his locker after the game.
“It was a good shot,” D-Will said of Lopez’s last miss, which nearly went down. “We’ll take that shot 10 out of 10 times. That’s his spot on the floor. He had a good look. It went in and out.
“I think he’ll be fine. I think he’ll be fine. Every player goes through that. It wasn’t the first, it won’t be the last.”
The Nets (43-32) lost their season series with the Bulls 3-1, and now lead Chicago (41-33) by just 1.5 games in the race for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
With just seven games left, this was one the Nets could ill afford to lose. Yet they did anyway.
“We shot ourselves in the foot, no question, or rather I shot [us] in the foot,” Lopez conceded.