Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE
Those ugly defeats to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Miami Heat are in the rear view mirror. All it took was resiliency and a few big shots from the Big Three of the Brooklyn Nets.
Before a sold-out Barclays Center, Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez combined for 67 points, and despite 42.4 percent shooting and blowing a 13-point lead in the second half the Nets found a way to score a 102-97 victory over the five-time defending Atlantic Division champion Boston Celtics. The Nets grabbed 18 offensive rebounds, scored 23 second-chance points and left no doubt over who owns Brooklyn's turf.
"This was one of the biggest games we’ve had in (my) two-plus years being here, and especially in our new home with our fans," Nets coach Avery Johnson said. "I remember when the Celtics would come in the last two years (at Newark's Prudential Center), and they’d have 75-to-80 percent of the fans, so it’s just great to see now that we’ve got our fans, they’re into the games, hollering ‘BROOK-LYN!’ ... It’s really fun to be a part of."
While Lopez continued to justify the Nets' long-term investment in him with 24 points and six rebounds on 11 of 14 shooting -- he's scored 20-plus points in four of the team’s first seven games this season -- Johnson overcame another rough shooting night (6-for-19) with big shots of his own. His jumper with 3:03 left in the game broke a tie and once he followed up with another basket the Nets were on their way.
"When you're struggling like that, a lot of times we remember what happens in the fourth quarter," said Avery Johnson. "(Like) a baseball player. He goes 0-for-3, but he gets up in the ninth inning and hits a home run or a double to bring somebody in. That's what you remember and it's the same thing tonight with Joe. He struggled a little bit, but I thought he did a good job to get quality shots."
Continuing the theme of finding ways to win, Williams overcame 3 of 11 shooting in the second half to bank six free throws in the final 43 seconds and competed through a leg injury he suffered in the third quarter. He was limping, but he played hurt and delivered - and promised more Sunday night in Sacramento, the start of the Nets' three-game West Coast trip.
"I don’t even know what it is. It’s the area in-between my Achilles and my calf," Williams said. "It’ll be all right by Sunday. That’s all that matters."
Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNYC