This is a new year for the Brooklyn Nets with new goals and higher expectations, but there were a couple of streaks from the past that they wanted to get rid of which were a 13-game losing streak to the Miami Heat and a 17-game losing streak to LeBron James. The new Nets took care of that with a 101-100 victory over LeBron’s team at the Barclays Center on Friday night.
“I’m 1-0 against them in this franchise so I don’t know the history of it, but it was our first game at home and we protected our home court,” Jason Terry said.
That was the company line on Friday night as Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce pretty much echoed his comments. Even some of the older guys like Brook Lopez and Deron Williams felt like that streak was already part of the past and something they weren’t concerned with.
“I didn’t know until before the game and it scrolled up on the screen,” Deron Williams said. “I don’t think I was here for all them so I didn’t know. You don’t want to have those types of streaks against any franchise so it was really important that we won.”
In a way though, ending those streaks says a lot about this team because they no longer mattered. The streak was already in the past, a relic left over from the days of New Jersey. This is a new team that has a singular focus on winning a championship.
• That focus certainly spilled out into the stands as Brooklyn rocked the house. All of the players felt it and it left a great impression on the new guys.
“This place is electric,” Kevin Garnett exclaimed. “I had to stop looking in the crowd. It was a huge distraction, but it was beautiful. The energy in here is incredible. Obviously, I’m coming from Beantown, but big-up to Brooklyn. It’s going to be a pleasure playing here.”
• KG must have been feeling good because at one point he took a tumble in the stands going after a play and when a 37-year-old goes diving into the stands it tends to get noticed.
“We talk about it, our identity is defense first, share the ball offensively, play together and all out effort,” Terry said. “That was exemplified tonight when you see Kevin go into the stands. That was electric, we feed off of it. It got us going. If he does that at his age, how can you not go out there and play hard every possession for a guy like that.”
• There was an obvious difference in the Nets from their loss on Wednesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers to tonight. They played as a more cohesive unit and that carried over into a few different aspects of their game. The biggest, many of the players felt, was how they were able to finish out possessions and quarters.
“Closing out quarters hurt us against Cleveland. We went on runs and then we let them get runs at the end of each of the quarters. Tonight, especially in the fourth quarter, we had a solid lead and we let them chip away and come back so we have to do a better job with that.”
• The distribution of everything was a noticeable difference from last year and even from Wednesday. By distribution I mean everything, from minutes guys played, the points guys scored and the ball movement. Nobody had more than 19 points and every player in the game scored at least one point for the Nets. None of that would have been possible without an outstanding effort from the bench.
“They’re huge,” Pierce said of Brooklyn’s bench mob. “One though 10 or one through 15, we can match up with anybody in the league. I think we have more depth than anybody in the league especially when you talk about Andray Blatche, Reggie Evans, Andrei Kirilenko, Shaun Livingston, Alan Anderson, we can throw so much at you. We have a lot of guys that started on a lot of other teams, but they’re here now coming off the bench so that will be huge for us all season long especially when you have guys banged up coming off long road trips. It’s going to be a long season so it’s inevitable that somebody is going to sit with an injury. So it’s good to have that kind of depth.”
• One particularly big moment the bench came through was during the third quarter after Brook Lopez was handed his fourth personal foul and had to leave the game. Blatche took over for him on the floor and even though he struggled in the first half, he came up big with an immediate six points that helped swing the momentum at the time.
• D-Will, who had eight points and eight assists, was again limited because of the ankle although this time he played 27 minutes tonight, as opposed to his 22 on Wednesday. At this point, he said, that it’s not so much the ankle, but getting back into game shape after missing so much time during the preseason.
“It’s good, it felt good,” D-Will said of the ankle after the game. “I got my minutes up. I’m just trying to get into the swing of things. My explosiveness isn’t there yet. I’m getting better, I’ve only had a couple of practices. I told the trainer that I feel like I’m in training camp now because I’m feeling soreness that guys felt a month ago.”
• Andrei Kirilenko also left the game feeling good about his back. “It was great. No side effects or bad feelings. I only played limited time, but I’m feeling great. Game by game it’s going to be increasing time. I hope so anyway. I think during the next couple of games there will be some limitation, but it will be increasing. I’m going out there with no soreness. It’s a good sign.”
• Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov was in the house. He didn’t address the team or anything, although he did speak with the YES Network during halftime, but his presence was felt in the building.
“I would be lying if I said it had no effect,” Kirilenko admitted. “You always want to feel like it’s a good product. With all of the back and forth shots it’s not good if you have heart problems, but I think that we did good overall.”
• The final word tonight goes to Alan Anderson, who played the most minutes of anybody on the bench with eight points and four rebounds.
“This game was real intense. I’ve never been in the playoffs yet, but I’m sure it was something like that. Every possession counts. That’s when you know you are in nut-covering time and everybody needs each other. We came out on top tonight so hopefully we can get some more of those.”