Nets make statement with first win in new home

The SportsXchange

BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- Ever since his 2011-12 season ended last March, when he sprained the right ankle on

the same foot he broke a few months earlier, Brook Lopez had been looking forward to his return to action.

"The doctors took good care of me and I did what they said, but I just wanted to be finally out there,

playing with the guys,'' said Lopez, who scored a team-high 27 points in his first game since early March,

leading the Brooklyn Nets to a 107-100 victory over the visiting Toronto Raptors in the franchise's first

game in their new home of Brooklyn and the new $1 billion Barclays Center.

"No question, we wanted to make a statement tonight in our first game together," said Lopez, who only

played six games all of last season. He suffered a sprained ankle March 4 and never returned to action,

after missing most of the first half of the year with a broken foot suffered during the last preseason

game.

"My teammates make my job easier. They got me the ball in good position all night."

Lopez connected on a clutch 3-point play with under a minute left that sealed the victory.

The Nets took the lead midway through the second quarter, keyed by the play of the team's second unit,

led by newcomer C.J. Watson, who had 13 of his 15 points in the first half.

Besides Lopez, the Nets also received 19 points and nine assists from Deron Williams, who was the key

signee during the offseason. Williams calmly canned six straight free throws in the final minute. Joe

Johnson also scored 14 in his debut with Brooklyn, hitting two clutch fourth-quarter jumpers on set plays

after timeouts.

The attendance for the first regular-season professional game in Brooklyn in 55 years was 17,752. The

last pro team to call Brooklyn home was the Dodgers, before they moved to Los Angeles after the 1957

season.

Kyle Lowry paced the Raptors (0-2) with 28 points, while DeMar DeRozan added 25.

Nets coach Avery Johnson was beaming after the victory.

"This was such a huge night, and if I give you the list of reasons, we'll be here for a while," Johnson

said. "We're in Brooklyn now and it's a big difference. We hoped our players would go out and do something

special. You heard the crowd, chanting 'Brooklyn, Brooklyn,' all night. They were really into it. I am

honored to just be a part of it, glad to be one of the pieces to this piece of history."

Johnson was also pleased with the performance of Lopez.

"He made some big shots with some strong moves," Johnson said. "He got to the free-throw line a lot. It

was his first game in a long time. Offensively, that's what we want from him."

After the Nets led by as many as 13 in the third quarter, the Raptors made things interesting in the

fourth, cutting the lead to 84-83 with 8:42 left in the game. Ed Davis scored all five of his team's points

to start the fourth period.

But the Nets quelled the run, as Johnson hit a corner jumper, then Kris Humphries scored on a power move

down low, pushing the lead to 88-83 with 7:03 left.

"When we're all making shots, it makes us tough to guard," said Joe Johnson. "We really wanted this

game. You could see in the first half, we were moving just a little too fast. We needed to let the game

come to us."

MarShon Brooks hit two clutch shots in the fourth quarter to keep the Raptors at bay.

Johnson hit another clutch shot with 1:50 left, giving the Nets a 96-92 lead. Lopez hit a big

conventional 3-point play with 59.4 seconds left to salt away the victory in the team's home opener.

Williams was the first player to score a basket in the new Barclays Center, hitting a long jumper 21

seconds into the game and giving the Nets a 2-0 lead.

"Somebody asked me in a restaurant yesterday who's going to get the first shot and I said, `Hey, look at

the roster. Who do you think?' He was going to get it. He also gets the game ball tonight because he came

back to us and believed in us."

However, it was the only lead Brooklyn had in the first period, as the Raptors nailed their first four

shots from the floor. DeRozan got the Raptors going with a strong move down low, then a long 3-pointer,

giving Toronto an early 7-2 lead.

"We came out aggressive and set the tone early," DeRozan said. "We knew it was going to be high energy

here for their first game, so we had to set the tone early."

The poor perimeter shooting that plagued the Nets throughout their dismal season a year ago came back to

haunt them in the early going, as Brooklyn connected on just five of its first 15 shots.

Lowry, acquired in a trade with Houston in the offseason, was the main offensive threat for Toronto in

the first quarter, scoring 11 points, including three consecutive 3-pointers.

The Nets displayed very little interior defense in the first quarter, as Amir Johnson came off the bench

to throw down three slam dunks, helping the Raptors push their lead to double digits. The Raptors led, 35-

27, after one period, after shooting 62 percent from the floor (15-of-24) during the quarter.

"With the defense we played in the first quarter, we're not beating anybody," Avery Johnson said.

The Nets' second unit injected some life into the team, outscoring the Raptors, 9-2, in the opening

stages of the second quarter to get back into the game, capped by a long 3-pointer from Watson right before

the shot clock went off.

The Nets then took their first lead since the opening seconds on a steal and layup from Watson with 4:58

remaining in the first half.

"We started to make costly turnovers and that gave them momentum," DeRozan said. "They just took our

rhythm away from us."

Watson, signed as a free agent over the summer from Chicago, was a spark plug in the second period,

scoring 13 points.

Humphries extended the lead to 53-48 with 1:00 left in the half with a lane jumper, then added a free

throw with 26 seconds left to give Brooklyn a 57-50 lead. Watson canned a long three at the first-half

buzzer to push the Nets' lead to 60-52 at the break.

DeRozan paced the Raptors with 16 first-half points, while Lowry had 13. Lopez had 14 to lead the Nets

and Watson added 13.

Nets forward Gerald Wallace went down hard trying to block a shot in the final minute. Wallace was taken

to the hospital for X-rays on his ankle, which were negative. Coach Johnson said Wallace, who had 10

points, six rebounds and four assists, is listed as day-to-day.

NOTES: Nets primary owner Mikhail Prokhorov addressed the media before the first game in Brooklyn, the

first time he spoke publicly since announcing that the Nets were no longer interested in Carmelo Anthony

more than 18 months ago. "I think it's a great day for the community," Prokhorov said. "When I bought the

Nets, I had a vision. It was a great opportunity, a team with a great upside. We're very lucky that

Brooklyn is our home and we're part of the Brooklyn community." ... Former Brooklyn Dodgers players Ralph

Branca and Joe Pignatano were in attendance for the first professional sporting event in the borough since

1957. "People in Brooklyn have been looking for a team to call their own," Branca said. "Brooklyn is

special. It's produced great talent, actors, producers, music artists. It's deserved to have a major league

franchise." ... Pignatano, a native of Brooklyn, was ecstatic. "No question, Brooklyn is the best. We had

the best fans. The Nets will have those fans. I can feel it." ... The Nets' game against the Knicks,

postponed Thursday because of Hurricane Sandy, will now be played Nov. 25. ... Prokhorov, who has recently

announced his candidacy for president of Russia, said that he had no favorite in the United States

Presidential election. "Because I started my political career last week, I have to be interested,"

Prohkorov said. "It's a win-win for me. President Obama likes basketball like me. Mitt Romney comes from

business like me."
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