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Nets without Lopez for rematch with Knicks

12/11/2012 12:30 PM ET
By Jon Lane

Lopez will remain out of action until at least Friday against the Pistons.(AP)
The Brooklyn Nets took Round 1 of the Battle of the Boroughs last month, but it’s the New York Knicks who are in better shape entering tonight’s rematch at Barclays Center (YES, 6:30 p.m.).

While the Knicks (15-5) currently own the best record in the Eastern Conference, the Nets (11-8) are losers of four straight and have felt the impact of missing their starting center, Brook Lopez. The Brooklynites are 1-4 without Lopez, who despite practicing on Monday for the first time since suffering the injury will not play against New York and is likely out for Wednesday’s contest at the Toronto Raptors.

The Nets will deploy the same starting five used in Sunday’s 97-88 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks with Reggie Evans at power forward for Kris Humphries.

“The goal is to get him back where he’s comfortable,” Nets general manager Billy King told reporters on Tuesday morning. “[For] yesterday being his first five-on-five in about two weeks, he felt good. Today, he felt pretty good, but he’s just not ready to partake in an NBA game. So, we are going to pull him out tonight. “

King added Lopez was "sucking a lot of wind" during Monday's practice, another factor in the decision to hold him out until he's in game shape.

“It’s not a setback,” King said. “It’s such a long year, you want to make sure mentally that he’s ready to go play an NBA game. Yesterday being his first time in five-on-five, the pace of practice is a lot different than the pace of a game. So we don’t want to rush him.

“We want him to be 100 percent confident when he goes on the court.”

Lopez excelled in the teams’ first meeting, scoring 22 points with 11 rebounds and five blocks in the Nets’ 96-89 victory, but his absence has hurt the Nets the most on defense and depth. Opponents are shooting 52.1 percent against the Nets during their losing streak and although Andray Blatche has been solid offensively in Lopez’s place (17.2 points, 9.8 rebounds), he’s been struggling on defense (0.4 blocks compared to Lopez’s 2.5). In addition, the rotation of the Nets’ bench, so strong to begin the year, has been disrupted.

Without Lopez, the Nets will face a tougher challenge in the Knicks than in the first game. Carmelo Anthony, who lit up Brooklyn for 35 points and 13 rebounds in November, is averaging 30.1 points over his last games and comes off a 34-point effort in a win over his former team, the Denver Nuggets, after missing two games with a cut on his left middle finger. Center Tyson Chandler (12.8 ppg, 10.0 rpg) has five double-doubles in his last six games and Jason Kidd will play after missing the first Knicks-Nets affair with lower back spasms.

Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNYC

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