Robin Lopez comes off bench to provide Wizards with ‘steady hand’ originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
After a long wait for Daniel Gafford to join the Wizards’ starting lineup, the decision was made for Game 4 to put Gafford in the starting lineup for the first time in his career. He lasted just over three-and-a-half minutes.
Then Alex Len was put into the game in replace of Gafford. He didn’t last much longer, as just five minutes and one second into the first quarter, the Wizards inserted Robin Lopez into the lineup with Len and Gafford stapled to the bench with two fouls.
And Lopez was exactly what the Wizards needed in just shy of 19 minutes on the floor.
He added 16 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the floor with five rebounds and two blocks, and perhaps most importantly, zero fouls in a 122-114 win that kept the Wizards’ season alive. With Joel Embiid wreaking havoc early, it was up to Lopez to slow him down as best he could.
“Obviously (foul trouble is) going to be in the back of my mind, but I think something that we talked about, we know (Embiid) likes to score from the free throw line, we know he likes to get points from there,” Lopez said. “We have to be aggressive too, so you have to walk that line between being conscientious of not fouling too much and not letting that take away from your grit.”
As for his performance, Lopez was a bit less open than he was about the success of his teammates.
“Eh, things happen sometimes,” Lopez said, grinning, when asked about his performance.
But as Lopez gave them solid first-half minutes, that allowed Gafford to enter the game later on and make his presence felt in the way of five blocks and 12 points.
“I thought he was great, Gaff was a huge deterrent at the rim,” Lopez said. “He made his presence felt on the boards, he was moving his feet, he was so good for us tonight.”
The move to insert Gafford into the starting lineup was a risky one, as he’s prone to fouling, but against Embiid, they’d need every string they could pull.
“Making decisions, there’s always the ebbs and flows of every decision you make,” Brooks said. “The thing I did not want to happen is start Gaff and he gets two quick fouls. And, unfortunately, that happened. That’s the thing we’ve been trying to work with him…That’s why we’ve worked all three (bigs) all year long. They’ve all helped in their own way.”
Once Embiid was lost for the game with right knee soreness the Wizards played well in the paint and were able to rotate as they pleased.
Gafford finished with 26 minutes of playing time, while Len had just 1:23. But Lopez’s 18:59 played as crucial a part in the win as any.
“RoLo gives us a steady hand,” Brooks said. “He’s just consistent with his hook shot that’s, I say, ‘Hook-o-matic.’ It’s always right there and he’s making it. I mean, I’m faster than him but he knows how to use his body and his positioning and his speed is a good speed for us, we’re used to that now. His minutes in the first half, he gave us a chance to win this game.”