'Monstrous' dunk highlights Lopez's return

NEW YORK -- The first indication that Brook Lopez was indeed "back" did not come until late in the second quarter.

But when it finally came, it came with authority.

After looking rusty and getting himself into early foul trouble, Lopez dropped the hammer with 2:43 left in the first half, finishing a one-handed dunk over Perry Jones that turned into a three-point play.

He began to look like his old self from there.

Lopez (right midfoot sprain), playing in his first regular-season game since Dec. 20, 2013, finished with 18 points, six rebounds and two blocks in 24 minutes, and the Brooklyn Nets rolled to an easy 116-85 victory over the injury-ravaged Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night in their home opener at Barclays Center.

"It was monstrous," Kevin Garnett said of Lopez's dunk. "It's just good to see him have that bounce, that explosion. We know he's having foot problems, but he's playing through a lot, and if we're going to be anything, we're gonna need the big fella."

Early on, Lopez looked like a 7-footer who was out of practice. He picked up two quick fouls less than three minutes into the game. And after sitting for the rest of the first quarter, Lopez was assessed his third personal just 49 seconds into the second.

But the Nets had a massive lead, so coach Lionel Hollins elected to put his big man back in following a short respite.

"He was a little sluggish early on and got into foul trouble," Hollins said. "But I had made up my mind that I wasn't just going to leave him on the bench. I was going to keep playing him, and it worked out. He got three fouls, but he didn't get any more, and I just wanted to play him."

Early in the fourth quarter, Lopez denied Steven Adams' alley-oop attempt at the rim. He missed his first three shots but closed by making six of his last seven.

"It felt good to be out there with the guys," Lopez said. "It was a little frustrating personally because I got in some early foul trouble, but our guys kept playing. We were fantastic out there. We were great defensively; there were really no lulls. We moved the ball offensively and got what we wanted. We couldn't have started off in a better way at home."

The Nets punished the Thunder, who were without Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook due to injury, early and often. Deron Williams (17 points, nine assists) set the tempo from the jump, while rookie Bojan Bogdanovic (12 points, 5-for-10 shooting) played with an aggressiveness not seen in his first two games as a pro. On the other side of the ball, Brooklyn allowed Oklahoma City to shoot just 39 percent from the field.

If Lopez can sustain his health -- which, given his history of foot injuries is a big if -- the Nets are going to be tough to stop offensively. With all their weapons, it's basically pick your poison.

"I think it's hard to double[-team] [Brook] because we have shooters all around him," Williams said.

It's going to be on Lopez to become a more competent pick-and-roll defender and rebounder. That's going to be the difference for the 26-year-old All-Star.

The Nets are 2-1 now, with three winnable home games -- Minnesota, New York and Orlando -- coming up on their schedule.

"This is not our mountain," Hollins said. "We want to keep building, building and just keep getting better. As I said, I hope we're a better team, and not this team, in January and February."