MILWAUKEE — With less than 30 seconds to play on Thursday night, the Milwaukee Bucks were clinging to a four-point lead over the Brooklyn Nets‘ reserves, who had made a furious comeback to get back into the game. The nervous energy flowing through Fiserv Forum rose as David Duke Jr. sped toward the basket to try and make it a two-point game.
Against any other team, against any other opponent, he likely would have done so. But not against Brook Lopez.
The Bucks’ Defensive Player of the Year candidate shifted over at the last second, stretched out his right arm and swiped Duke’s attempt off the glass. A few seconds later, Jevon Carter scored on the other end to effectively seal the game, and the Bucks survived with a 118-113 victory.
“Phenomenal,” Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said. “It was a close game and he made the plays that made the difference down the stretch.”
Lopez, who was manning the paint by himself due to the absence of Giannis Antetokounmpo, finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high nine blocks. His nine rejections are the most in a single game by any player since Rudy Gobert reached that mark on March 22, 2021.
About the only thing Lopez didn’t accomplish against the Nets was registering the seventh triple-double with blocks in the league in the past decade. He did, however, say that he had such a game in college while playing for Stanford, though Joe Ingles was quick to point out that “doesn’t count.”
“I’m just trying to say all-time, I wasn’t gonna go to elementary school or something,” Lopez said. “I played in the PAC-10. I wasn’t in some tiny conference. Gosh, Joe said he was gonna wait for the interview, too. He said he wanted to be here for this. Gosh.”
The Bucks were in a joking mood in the locker room thanks in large part to Lopez’s latest defensive masterclass that only furthered his surprise Defensive Player of the Year case. Per Caesars Sportsbook, Lopez is now +100 to win the award, just behind Memphis Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr., at -150.
Milwaukee has the third-best defense in the league at 109.6 points allowed per 100 possessions. With Lopez on the floor their defensive rating drops to 106.9. The big man is third in the league in blocks at 2.5 per game, and opponents shoot just 51.6 percent at the rim when he makes a contest.
At a certain point, you wonder why teams even continue to go into the paint when Lopez is around.
“I guess I’m not gonna question it, right?” Lopez said. “Whatever happens, if someone’s gonna come at the rim I’m gonna try to be there to stop them from putting the ball in the basket. That’s a pretty simple answer, I guess. That’s exactly what I try to do out there, but that’s the best way I can describe it.”