WASHINGTON, D.C.—For the record, the Nets opened the 2013-14 exhibition season with a 111-106 overtime win over the Wizards Tuesday night in our nation's capitol.
The starting five, sans point guard Deron Williams who is nursing a right ankle injury, played like a tight band. It was truly an impressive performance when one considers three of the starters - Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Shaun Livingston - were not with Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson last season.
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For all the emphasis on defense that Coach Jason Kidd preached in a grueling training camp, the offense ripped. It gave Kidd one more chance to tweak critics that keep referring to K.G., Pierce and Jason Terry as old.
"I use another word,'' Kidd said in training camp. "Wisdom.''
Wisdom? Skill? Experience? Take your pick. The offense clicked.
"You have some wisdom guys over there,'' said Kidd. "They played a lot of basketball so they understand it's still basketball.''
The run for the ring began in earnest Tuesday night. Here's what we saw.
NEW IDENTITY: We heard the word, 'Identity' so often during training camp you would have thought you were at a LifeLock convention. The Nets were not a tough, unified group last season, something that's expected to change with additions of Garnett, Pierce and Terry.
The Nets didn't knock any Wizards on their rear end (see GM Billy King's training camp comments) but there were signs of a new identity taking shape. When Reggie Evans drew a foul after grabbing three consecutive rebounds in the third quarter, the starters popped off the bench like it was a playoff game. He also got a lot of respect for drawing an offensive foul in the first half.
"We're not going to back down,'' said Evans. "I can tell you that right now.''
DEFENSE: We're dovetailing on the identity theme, here. Kidd didn't need to be reminded that the Nets were the worst transition defense team in the league last season.
The Nets held the Wizards to 42.4 percent shooting and forced 12 turnovers in the first half. Two minutes into the second half, during a stoppage in play, Evans and Garnett were critiquing each other's defensive stance in front of the bench. The Nets almost won it in regulation on Mirza Teletovic's block of Garrett Temple shot with 9.8 seconds left.
"We're going to hang our hats on the defensive end,'' said Pierce.
HOW DO YOU STOP THEM? The Nets scored 51 points in the first half, getting 19 baskets off of 14 assists, and shooting 48.7 percent from the field. And sWilliams didn't play. Neither did Terry.
"Look at our starting lineup,'' said Lopez who finished with 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting, a performance that Garnett described as humbling. "It can come from any person at any time. So we play through that person.''
That person, especially early in games, appears to be Lopez. He said his right foot, which needed surgery in the off season to repair a bent screw, was not something he thought about during the game.
"That's what we're going to try to do night in and night out,'' said Pierce. "Establish our inside game. We feel like got an advantage there every night. He's one of the young best centers in the league and we're going to establish him. He's going to be a force to be reckoned with.''
DEPTH: The Nets are counting on their second unit to take some of the minutes off Garnett, Pierce and Terry. The bench, which played 11 minutes and 31 seconds in the first half, outscored the starters which played 12 minutes and 29 second, 27-25.
Andrei Kirilenko certainly did play. His line was 11 points, five rebounds, five assists, three steals and one blocked shot. With seconds winding down at the and of the third quarter, he made sure Tyshawn Taylor, was aware of the clock. Taylor hit a jumper. No wonder why Garnett, Pierce, Terry and Williams were thrilled when the Nets signed AK 47.
"Everybody knows why we're here,'' said Kirilenko. "We understand the sacrifices we're going to make. We don't want it to be for nothing.''
Lopez said the Nets do not yet have a nickname for their bench. Evans said they would consider possibilities. Lopez might have already hit it. When initially asked about the bench, he referred to them as a bench mob. Bench Mob. Love it.
JASON KIDD'S COACHING STYLE: It was in keeping with what we saw in training camp. He consulted often with his assistants (Lawrence Frank missed the game for personal reasons) during timeouts before stepping into the huddle.
With 8:18 left in the second quarter, he drew up a sweet pick and roll that was executed perfectly. Livingston found Lopez for an uncontested dunk.
For veterans such as Garnett, who has known Kidd as a competitor, seeing him on the bench was surreal. "It was weird, I'll be honest with you,'' said Garnett. "Seeing him in his little tight suit drawing up plays. It was good.''