by Devon Jeffreys, October 16, 2012
For the most part, the Nets' preseason home opener on Monday night, the first game the team played at their new home in Brooklyn, the Barclays Center, went according to the normal plan of a preseason game.
But with 3:25 to go and his team clinging to a seven-point lead, Nets coach Avery Johnson treated the final stretch of the preseason contest like a postseason baseball game. Johnson went to his bench and brought in his closer, Deron Williams, who had been sitting with the rest of the starters since the start of the fourth and thought his night was done.
But D-Will was happy to oblige his coach and return to finish what he'd started. Over the final three minutes, Deron assisted on one basket and swished two free throws to cap an 11-point, nine-assist evening as the Brooklyn Nets defeated Washington Wizards, 98-88.
"He caught me off guard when he called me back out there," D-Will said after the game. "It's good to get into some type of rhythm, get a chance to finish the game out. It was somewhat close when I went back in, so it was good to close the game out and get the win. Coach wanted to win this one."
Johnson said that he felt it was only right to send the 14,219 fans in attendance home with a good taste in their mouth about Brooklyn's new team, so he wanted his troops to be sure they had the game in the bag. For their part, Brooklyn's fans returned the love throughout the contest, serenading Deron and his teammates with chants of "Brook-lyn" and "Let's Go Nets" unprompted throughout the evening.
"I thought the crowd was great, especially for a preseason game," No. 8 said. "We've wanted to play in this building for a long time. It was definitely exciting. We look forward to playing many more here and winning many more here. I think this atmosphere is going to be great come November 1 and hopefully for the rest of season, especially if we take care of business at home. We want a great crowd that's going to help us have an amazing home court advantage."
A buzz echoed through the arena early as the Nets tipped off the first major pro sports game in the borough since 1957 and there was clearly an air of nervousness with the team. They fell behind by as many as eight in the first nine minutes, but came roaring back with a 9-0 run in the final three minutes and after one they trailed by just one.
The second quarter belonged mostly to the second unit and they pushed the Nets ahead by two points at halftime. But it was in the second half that Brooklyn took over the game, shaking off some early game jitters to get it done on the defensive end and limit the Wizards to just 20 points in both the third and fourth quarters on just 36 percent shooting.
"We didn't start off as good as we did against Philly because there was a lot of excitement for us as players being here," Deron said. "Early on we weren't communicating and that's something we talked about [at halftime]. I think our defense was a lot better in the second half. Coach came in and we watched things on tape, saw that we weren't putting in the effort that we should've been. We started getting after it more in the second half."
D-Will complemented the strong defense by scoring seven of his 11 points and dishing four of his nine assists in the third to help the Nets take command of the game. The Nets led by five when he took his seat to start the fourth. Washington fought back to take the lead against the second unit early in the fourth, but the contributions of CJ Watson and Andray Blatche put Brooklyn in front down the stretch allowing D-Will to enter and close the game out.
Deron's late-game minutes featured a small dust-up with Wizards guard A.J. Price with less than a minute to go with the Nets on their way to victory. As No. 8 was driving for a late game bucket, Price fouled him hard and the two traded words. D-Will told reporters after the game that Price, a New York product, was telling him "I'm home." Deron's message back to Price was succinct.
"This is my home now," D-Will said. "I told him that."
The Nets complete a rare preseason back-to-back tonight in Boston as they take on the Celtics tonight at TD Garden.
With two more games scheduled for this week (Thursday and Friday at home), coach Avery Johnson said he may limit the minutes of D-Will and fellow starters in Boston.
"That's coach's decision and whatever he feels necessary," he said. "I think it is a little weird. I don't know if I've ever had four in five nights in the preseason. I guess it is good to get the rest one night and come back and play Thursday and Friday at home."
Tuesday's tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EDT and the game can be seen nationwide on NBA TV. It will be followed immediately by the premiere of "The Association: Brooklyn Nets."
- Deron Williams, Nets welcome NBA to their new Brooklyn home (Yahoo Sports, October 15, 2012)
- Nets Open New Home With a Win (The New York Times, October 16, 2012)
- Nets open Barclays with a bang (ESPN.com, October 16, 2012)
- Nets beat Wizards in first game in Brooklyn (Associated Press, October 15, 2012)
- Brooklyn Nets play first game at Barclays Center, beat Washington Wizards (NY Daily News, October 16, 2012)
- No place like Brooklyn home (Newsday, October 16, 2012)
- Nets open Brooklyn era with win over Wizards (New York Post, October 16, 2012)
- With Brooklyn dream finally a reality, Nets ready to compete (SI.com, October 15, 2012)
- Nets open new chapter in Brooklyn with a win (CBS Sports, October 16, 2012)
- In Brooklyn debut, Nets second fiddle (Fox Sports, October 15, 2012)
- Nets add flair to Big Apple hoops (Washington Times, October 15, 2012)