Just when it appeared the Brooklyn Nets were about to turn around their season, they lost to the Wizards and then in overtime to the Philadelphia 76ers. Then came Saturday's news: Brook Lopez, their leading scorer, is out for the season with a broken right foot.
It is the second time that the starting center has ended his season with a break in the foot. He missed 2011-12 because of it and then had to undergo another surgery after last season because of a bent screw in the foot. Lopez averaged 20.7 points and 6.0 rebounds in 17 games despite already missing nine with a sprained left ankle.
He had 22 points in a 113-107 loss to the Wizards on Wednesday. The injury occurred vs. Philadelphia on Friday.
The Wizards already have won the season series with the Nets, having won their first two meetings. The teams play three times.
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While the Wizards (12-13) are getting healthier with the returns of Nene and Bradley Beal, the Nets (9-17) are falling apart. Their options at replacing Lopez are to shift Kevin Garnett over to center, but in his 19th season Garnett only is averaging 6.5 points per game and sat out vs. Philadelphia to give his knees a rest; Andray Blatche, a former Wizard who isn't a true post player; and Reggie Evans, an undersized power forward who is an offensive liability though a good rebounder.
The Nets' only saving grace here is that they're only two games back in the Atlantic Division which is led by the Boston Celtics (12-16). That means a No. 4 seed for the postseason is still possible no matter how much better the Wizards finish. The Wizards won't catch the Miami Heat (20-6), which means they'll finish second at best in the Southeast Division.
Division winners automatically get the top four seeds in each conference, regardless if they have a lesser record than non-division winners.