Led by Paul Pierce’s 19 points, and a passionate home crowd the Nets, for the first time in 14-games, defeated the Miami Heat in their home opener at Barclays on Friday night. The team was buoyed by the fans which gave the arena it’s first true ‘home-court’ feel since the Nets moved to Brooklyn at the beginning of last season.
As much talk as there’s been about Kevin Garnett and Pierce’s on-court influence – and they have been important, as evidenced on Friday – it was th crowd that filled the role of Sixth Man last night, helping the Nets to victory over the defending champs. The tone was set from the player introductions where each member of, arguably, the best starting five in the league was given a loud ovation. The biggest reserved for point guard Deron Williams, of course.
Unlike last year’s Game 7 of the conference semi-finals against Chicago, the arena never lacked energy on Friday, spurring the players to their best performance since they were assembled. The Nets jumped out to a 27-18 lead at the end of the first term, and never loked back despite a late rally from the Heat.
After the game Kevin Garnett (6 point, 7 rebounds), himself no stranger to raucous crowds, was impressed with the energy level from his new home fans.
“This place was electric, man,” said Garnett post-game. “I had to stop looking at the crowd, it was a huge distraction, but it was beautiful. The energy in here is incredible. Obviously I’m coming from Beantown and the energy in that city, but Brooklyn? God damn. Big up to Brooklyn, man.”
On numerous occassions the Heat battled back, at one stage cutting a 16-point deficit back into single digits during the middle of the game, but each time Brooklyn’s defense held them at bay. And each time the Heat were denied the crowd roared it’s approval, especially when Paul Pierce, the longtime nemesis of LeBron James, blocked the King’s shot at the rim with five minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Pierce, who also added 6 assists and 5 rebounds, said the team fed off the crowd’s energy, but admitted that Brooklyn still needed to work on avoiding losing leads against teams such as the Heat.
“It [crowd] was great. This building has the potential to be one of the great buildings in al of the NBA. It was electric, the crowd was really into it. This is a building where we’re trying to establish where teams don’t want to come in here. A lot of buildings have a reputation and we’re trying to build one here.
“Every game is a learning experience. Even though we won, we’ve still got a lot to learn, still got a long way to go. Our turnovers are concerning, our free throws down the stretch, we gave up late threes. I’m glad we can learn something in a win [rather] than a loss.”
The last time the Nets had beaten LeBron was in 2008, with current coach Jason Kidd (who ended a two-game suspension last night) still in a New Jersey uniform.
Image via: JASON DECROW/ASSOCIATED PRESS