(November 1, 2013)
BROOKLYN—Moments like this come around once in a franchise. When they do, you’ve got to grab them like your morning bagel and tear in.
The Brooklyn Nets did.
They had the Miami Heat in their house Friday night, a soldout Barclays Center, that was decorated with stars like the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.
Magic Johnson. David Beckham. Mayor Bloomberg. Chris Rock. Allen Iverson. Geno Smith.
And, of course, Mikhail Prokhorov, the no-fear owner who made this night possible for the stars and the 17,000-plus fans that have embraced this franchise like family.
If you’re a Brooklyn Nets fans, you will never forget where you were on the night of Nov. 1st, 2013, the night the Nets played a home opener for the ages.
This was the night the Nets made a statement to themselves, to the NBA, to their fans, and, perhaps, most of all, to the two-time NBA champion Miami Heat.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, as the euphoric fans had this basketball palace on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues swaying, the Nets snapped a 13-game losing streak to the Heat, 101-100.
Paul Pierce, who had sent a couple of messages to the Heat in the preseason, fouling LeBron James hard in one game and jawing with Dwayne Wade in another, scored 19 points, had six assists, grabbed four rebounds and drained two free throws with seven seconds left, giving the Nets a 99-95 lead.
Pierce also played great defense on James, who finished with a game-high 26.
Joe Johnson added 19 for the Nets on 6-of-8 shooting. He hit two free throws with 3.7 seconds left after James had hit a 3 from the corner, cutting the Nets’ lead to 99-98.
Deron Williams had eight assists and drained 1-of-2 pressure free throws with 17.5 seconds left and the Heat trailing 96-94.
Moments like this come around once in a lifetime for a franchise.
The Nets (1-1) had a national television audience.
They had no local competition – the Knicks and Rangers had the night off.
They had their entire roster – a roster that was assembled to beat the Heat - available for the first time.
The Nets would validated that $189 million payroll.
Now the Heat (1-2) have to acknowledge that there is another team in the East they will have to take seriously.
Now that goal of winning the franchise’s first NBA title suddenly seems attainable.
Suddenly this desire for the Nets and Heat to be a rivalry is real.
The Nets had beaten the Heat twice in the preseason but that was as worthless as a subway token.
“It’s tough to tell from the preseason but they did outplay us,’’ said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “We’re not discounting that.’’
There is no discounting what the Nets are, what they are capable. This was the night Nets fans will remember forever.