Nets miss Lopez on defense, too

Brooklyn Nets coach Avery Johnson doesn't expect center Brook Lopez to be his team's "savior" when he comes back from a right ankle injury -- possibly on Tuesday night against the New York Knicks.

But there's little doubt that Lopez has been Brooklyn's best player this season.

Before Lopez got hurt, the Nets were 10-4. Ever since he's been out of the lineup, they've gone 1-4, their lone victory coming against the hapless Orlando Magic.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, with Lopez (2.5 blocks per game), the Nets are giving up 90.7 points per game and sporting a plus-4.9 points-per-game differential. Without him, they're giving up 102.2 points per game and sporting a minus-6 differential.

"He's been really aggressive (defensively)," point guard Deron Williams said. "He's been going after shots. He's a big guy in general, so he's gonna clog up the lane and make guys think twice about driving down the lane."

Lopez is averaging 18.5 points per game despite playing just 29.7 minutes. He ranks third in the NBA with 12.9 points per game in the paint.

"We've definitely been missing him on the inside. We need an inside presence. You can throw the ball to him and let him work," Williams said. "We like to start games playing inside-out, and he draws a lot of double-teams and opens up a lot of things for everybody else. And like I said, he can just flat-out score the ball, so he's a big part of what we do on offense."

• Johnson mentioned that the Nets might consider starting Gerald Wallace at power forward on Tuesday night to counter New York's smaller lineups.

"That's on the table also," Johnson said.

Kris Humphries started the first 18 games of the season at power forward before Johnson elected to start Reggie Evans on Sunday night.