NEW YORK -- The Brooklyn Nets' franchise had not participated in an NBA playoff game in six years prior to Saturday night's Game 1 against the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series at Barclays Center.
It sure looked like they were ready for it.
"We've been waiting for this for a long while," said Nets center Brook Lopez, who scored 19 of his 21 points in the first half of the Nets' 106-89 victory that gave Brooklyn a 1-0 head start in the best-of-seven series. "We came out aggressive, and that was what we needed to do. The team was clicking early, and when we're clicking that way we're tough to beat. It was critical for us to come out strong. It felt like the season opener."
The Nets led from start to finish, taking a 25-point halftime lead and coasting against a Bulls team that had defeated the Nets three out of four times during the season.
Deron Williams led the way with a team-high 22 points and had seven assists, as six Brooklyn players reached double figures in scoring. Aside from the contributions of Lopez and Williams, the Nets received 16 points from Joe Johnson, 14 points from Gerald Wallace, 14 from former Bulls guard C.J. Watson and 12 from Andray Blatche.
"This was definitely one of the best games we played all season, to be honest," Johnson said. "We were really focused in by the way we played early. We got everyone involved."
Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo was pleased with the way his team played from the outset.
"That's a heck of a performance," Carlesimo said. "We played extremely well. We defended very well, especially early. We competed very well. We pushed the ball and shot the ball well."
Carlos Boozer had 25 points and eight rebounds to pace the Bulls, who must recover in time for Game 2 in Brooklyn on Monday night. Nate Robinson added 17 points and Marco Belinelli and Jimmy Butler had 13 each for Chicago.
The Nets played one of the most-inspired and best-balanced first halves of the season, led by the strong inside play of Lopez.
The center dominated in the first period, scoring 12 points, helping the Nets gain a 25-14 lead. Lopez also had two huge blocked shots, keeping the Bulls away from the basket.
"We always want to get the ball to Brook early to set a tone," Carlesimo said. "It was just good instinctive basketball, and we were able to get the ball inside."
The Nets grabbed their biggest lead of the first half at 43-26 on two successive power moves from Lopez, one a drive through the lane and the second a monstrous slam dunk. That prompted the Bulls to call a timeout with 4:29 remaining in the second period Lopez scored 16 first-half points.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was not happy with his team's lack of intensity.
"They sort of hit us with a haymaker in the first half and we didn't respond," Thibodeau said. "We got in a hole and couldn't recover. We played poor defense. We had poor intensity and poor energy. We can't win like that. From A to Z, this was a poor performance. You name it."
The Nets pushed the lead to 20 (46-26) on a wild sequence. Wallace caught Kirk Hinrich's shot in mid-air and fed Watson, who drained a 27-foot 3-pointer. The Nets made 12 of their first 16 shots in the second quarter.
"This was all about energy," Wallace said. "Our main thing was playing a dominant 48 minutes on both ends. It's a totally different season now. I was just enjoying myself because I don't want to go home. We already know what we have to do. Now we've got a win and we can't afford a let-up."
Carlesimo praised Wallace's performance.
"He was one of our two or three best players out there," Carlesimo said. "He didn't need to score a point and still had a great game."
The Nets shot 57 percent from the floor and committed only eight turnovers.
"We know we're not going to put 106 up there again," Carlesimo said. "We just got one game. That's it."
Thibodeau knows his team has its back to the wall already.
"They're playing at a very high level now," Thibodeau said. "They start fast every game and get teams down early. They have a lot of guys rolling right now. You can't ease into a playoff game. You have to have the intensity right away. It's something I have to get corrected. We have to respond better."
NOTES: Thibodeau said former league MVP Derrick Rose is likely out for the entire series. "With Derrick, he's worked very hard to get back and he's close, but he just can't make that final step. It's unlikely he'll play in this series, but maybe a week from now he can make that final step. For now, nothing has changed." Rose, who suffered a torn ACL in the first round of the 2012 playoffs, has been working out with the team since January. "He's been around us for a while," Thibodeau said. "No one player could ever replace Derrick, but we've done a pretty good job without him." ... While the Bulls were without Rose, they did get Noah (foot injury) back right before tipoff. Thibodeau had not expected him, saying before the game, "It's the type of injury where you don't know how he's going to feel the next day. Some guys completely tear it and feel better the next day. Joakim has had it before and dealt with it before. We'll see how he is tomorrow." Noah had only four points in 13 minutes. ... The Nets and Bulls are meeting in the playoffs for the first time since 1998, when the Bulls swept the Nets in the opening best-of-five round en route to their last NBA title. ... The Bulls have qualified for the playoffs in each of the last five years but were eliminated in the first round in three of the four prior tries, including last year by Philadelphia. ... The Nets are making their first postseason appearance since 2006-07, when they defeated the Toronto Raptors in the first round in six games before losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games in the second round. ... The Nets wore their road black jerseys as part of the "Blackout in Brooklyn" promotion. ... Hinrich suffered a thigh bruise late in the third quarter and did not return.