By Tom Dowd
The Brooklyn Nets picked up their first win of the season in their home opener, pushing past the Orlando Magic in the fourth quarter and holding on for a 126-121 win.
“It felt great,” said D’Angelo Russell, playing his first regular season game at Barclays Center. “The atmosphere was amazing. We’re going to need that from the fans every home game. It just felt good to get one.”
“Amazing. First home game, the atmosphere, it was heated in there”
Up by two, the Nets got a 3-pointer from DeMarre Carroll with 4:08 to go for a 113-108 lead. Russell then scored Brooklyn’s next six points with a pair of twisty moves in the lane followed by an arcing foul line jumper for a 119-116 lead under 90 seconds.
“He’s a talented player,” said coach Kenny Atkinson. “He’s going to have the ball in his hands at the end of the game. As you can see we’re going to share the ball and have a lot of guys touch it, but at the end of the game you need guys to pay. I thought he made a couple spectacular plays to get to the rim. He snuck that one in under, I think it was under (Nikola) Vucevic, then he got (Jonathan) Isaac on the switch and gave him kind of a jitterbug.”
D.J. Augustin’s 3-pointer brought Orlando within 122-121 with 14.9 seconds to go, but Allen Crabbe made two free throws and the Nets came up with a final defensive stand. Augustin’s kickout pass to Vucevic was low, giving the Net defense time to recover. Vucevic passed to Evan Fournier in the corner and his missed three was rebounded by Trevor Booker, who made two free throws to seal it.
Russell, Booker and Carroll led the Nets with 17 points apiece.
BOOSTED BY THE BENCH
Even without Jeremy Lin, Atkinson ran an even deeper rotation than he did in Wednesday’s season opener, using 11 players against Orlando. It was that depth and the performance of players coming off the bench that spurred the victory. Brooklyn’s bench outscored Orlando’s, 64-34.
“We neeeded them,” said Atkinson. “Our starters I didn’t think had the juice they had even the other night, so we really needed them. It’s a lot of guys that have been with us. Booker. Spencer (Dinwiddie) was really good. I thought Joe (Harris) gave us a big boost, hit a couple threes, I thought his defense was really good. Again, Jarrett Allen coming kind of out of left field. I think we thought before the game we need better rim protection and he makes things difficult in there with his length, his activity. Good debut for him.”
It was the play of the group off the bench that got the Nets going after a sluggish start. Trailing 23-15, they ran off 11 straight points, with back-to-back Booker baskets followed by a Dinwiddie 3-pointer.
In the second quarter, Booker and Dinwidde again pushed the Nets to a 41-34 lead midway through the quarter. And in the fourth, it was a bench group that put the Nets in front after they entered the final period trailing 91-89.
Atkinson said the bench group was extended on the court due to their performance.
“I think he’s going to stick with whichever unit is rocking,” said Booker. “That’s what we expect.”
Booker, after opening the season with a 20-10 double-double at Indiana, had 17 points and 11 rebounds.
ALLEN MAKES AN IMPACT
After DNP on Wednesday, Jarrett Allen made his NBA debut in front of the home crowd with some spectacular plays.
“Amazing. First home game, the atmosphere, it was heated in there,” said Russell. “For him to step up like that was great. Some good dunks, good blocks, rebounded. Played his part.”
Entering the game for the first time midway through the second quarter, Allen was part of that big effort off the bench, finishing with nine points in 14 minutes.
He made his first three NBA shots, all dunks, including back-to-back jams late in the second quarter.
“He’s very mobile,” said Booker. “Athletic. He wasn’t scared of the moment. He was ready when his number was called. He stepped right in and gave us big minutes.”
DEFENSE A WORK IN PROGRESS
Two nights after Indiana scored 140 points, the Nets allowed 50 percent shooting from Orlando, including 55 percent from 3-point range and a scorching 41-point game by Vucevic, who shot 17-for-22 and 6-for-8 from 3-point range.
“Every time I’ve played against him he’s done that,” said Russell, “so I’m used to it.”
So are the Nets, who were burned by Vucevic three times last season.
After Vucevic put up 20 points by halftime, the Nets had some success covering him with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
“He did a pretty good job being physical with him,” said Booker. “Vucevic, he wanted to stay on the outside. Rondae used his quickness to get back to him and shut that down.”