Brooklyn Peaks At Right Time, Based On Opener Vs. Bulls


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BROOKLYN – The last postseason game played in this borough, the guys from Brooklyn didn’t even score (Johnny Kucks and the New York Yankees shut out the Dodgers 9-0 in Game 7 of the 1956 World Series at Ebbets Field).

So things already were looking up when Brook Lopez turned teammate Reggie Evans‘ offensive rebound into a layup 62 seconds into Game 1 of the Nets’ best-of-seven series against the Chicago Bulls Saturday night at Barclays Center.

The thing is, it only got better from there. Everything got better. The Nets’ offense purred under the direction of Deron Williams. The Brooklyn defense clamped down hard on a Bulls team with a reputation for clamping down (“I think we’re better,” Nets forward Gerald Wallace said).

Lopez played so well – 19 of his 21 points by halftime – that it might not have mattered if Chicago center Joakim Noah had had three good feet, never mind two. Brooklyn scored in the second quarter alone (35 points) what it took the Bulls a whole half to post and needed only three quarters to do (89 points) what took the visitors the entire game.

NBA playoff series are all about game-to-game adjustments, holding home court and never, ever getting out front of one’s self in excitement or assumptions. The Nets expect nothing less than a resurgence by Chicago’s players, properly chewed, spit out and told to do better by coach Tom Thibodeau.

Still, if a series opener could count double or at least set a tone for what’s likely to follow, this one would shoot to the front of the pack. This was one of the Nets’ most complete victories of their inaugural season at Barclays and it came precisely at the right time.

“Fresh start. New season. Playoffs are totally different,” said Wallace, who has seen performances by his squad similar to Saturday’s but only for partial credit.

“We’ve been doing that in the regular season against them but we’d give it away in the fourth quarter,” Wallace said, referring to Brooklyn’s 1-3 record against Chicago in the regular season. “We just been really inconsistent at times – we got comfortable during the regular season when we got leads as well as we did tonight. Tonight our focus was for 48 minutes.”

Funny how the urgency takes hold when the wiggle room vanishes. “You’ve just got to know that it’s win or go home,” said Wallace, whose 14 points, six rebounds and two blocks mattered less than the aggressiveness he showed, particularly on defense (his counterpart, Luol Deng, got sideways with just six points on 3-of-11 shooting).

“There’s no, ‘Well, OK, we’ll just chalk this one and come back tomorrow.’ We don’t have 82 games to kind of fix things. Four losses and we’re at home. And all the little nick-nack things and petty things that you had to deal with during the regular season have to be thrown out the window now.”

Swapping East Rutherford, N.J., for their fancy new digs, the Nets brought to their new home an almost entirely new team. That bunch got off to an unrealistically perky start – 11-4 through November for East Coach of the Month Avery Johnson, who was gone before their full reversal in December (5-11) was complete.

The parts didn’t always fit, especially with Williams out of shape, aching in his ankles and generally cranky about it all. Interim coach P.J. Carlesimo steered the Nets to the best winning percentage in franchise history (.648) but there still were hiccups late in the regular season, including a loss to Toronto and a scare against Indiana.

But Williams shed some weight, got specialized treatment on his ankles and came back from a getaway All-Star break in Miami looking like a new player, as in, the old D-Will. Guys around him got healthier and more comfortable playing with him, even as Williams’ bursts and jump shots improved.

The Nets’ attention to detail picked up. They have made it routine to get Lopez active early, because of the good things that usually follow. Just run to the rim, big fella. As forward Reggie Evans said: “I have so much confidence up to the point where I know he’s gonna bring it every night. I won’t worry about him … we’ve already been talking about this moment and stuff. Typical Lope – here early, ready to roll, and he did what he did. You can’t really argue, one of the top two big men in the league by far.”

There was hardly a thing to dislike, as “Brooklyn basketball” played to an identity Saturday rather than just a marketing slogan. Highlights abounded, from vet Jerry Stackhouse singing the anthem to Williams swiping the ball and racing downcourt for a reverse dunk.

Chicago was the team in off-day disarray, with a lot of its fans wondering if Noah’s sore right foot (plantar fasciitis) can heal enough again to allow him on the court. Failing that, some who noticed All-Star guard Derrick Rose on the visitors’ bench might be wondering if Noah’s heart could be transplanted into Rose’s chest. The healthiest guy on Chicago’s roster might be the one who hasn’t played since last April 28.

Still, this one was about Brooklyn, so much so that some were bemoaning the Nets’ failure to chase down the No. 3 seed, considering the second-round showdown it might have set up with the Knicks.

For now, though, one Brooklyn postseason game that went right nearly 57 years after the last one went wrong was cause enough for anticipation.

Williams, touting “ball movement, defensively being attentive and helping each other out,” called it “really unselfish basketball.” And “fun basketball.”

“We’ve had ups and downs all season,” the point guard said. “But I think we always expected to be in the playoffs. and hopefully [we’re] clicking at the right time.”

18 Comments

  1. Tristan says:

    Woah woah, there’s so much hate on this feed right now. Bottom line right now is that the Nets are probably playing their best basketball of the season. I would be surprised if they don’t beat the Bulls in 5-6 games, but the Heat are an entirely different story. Right now Nets fans, let’s focus on the Bulls. Nice to see DWill with that hop in his step again.

  2. tufcik smith says:

    nets shoot ball good, bulls no shoot ball good. Bulls not playing da D. They play da D and shoot ball good, they will win da nets.

  3. W/E says:

    I blame D.Rose and his weak mentality for the humiliation of his team in the playoffs,he is supposed to be their “leader”… the bulls will be lucky if they manage to win 1 game in the series but they are done anyway, they gotta make a full rebuild or they will continue to be round first exits for the next 5 years.

    • Sam says:

      You are arguably the stupidest person to post here. D Rose and his weak mentality? An ACL injury is a serious thing, and if he doesn’t feel ready to come back, then he’s not ready to come back! Simple as that. He hasn’t played in the NBA for almost a year and you want him to return, IN THE PLAYOFFS, and be the same, maybe even better than before? Be realistic man

      • W/E says:

        YES HE IS WEAK…the guy should be on the court helping his team, he was cleared to play long ago and he wont even bother, he is watching his team getting battered from the bench despite probably being healthier than anyone in his team cause he doesnt “feel” like playing…and this guy is supposed to be the leader of his team, the bulls are doomed.

  4. dntbebiased says:

    woah there nets fans. I think its because you guys are a little new to the whole “playoffs” situation, but don’t get to far ahead of yourselves just yet. one opening home game win is not intication your heading to the finals. steve is just a little angry at the bulls effort and is venting his frustrations and flopping a bit, but that’s how women react when mad, so that was expected. I remember this bulls team beating Miami by 21 or so on the opener of the ecf and then losing every game after, Miami in the finals 2011, same thing. point is, relax, enjoy your game 1 win, and get ready for the next game….. not your fantasy ny ecf senario

  5. Hold On says:

    Easy fellows, that’s one game- don’t get ahead of yourselves thinking that the Heat series will be so easy. That was just one game, expect the Bulls to come back stronger in the next one and probably make this a decent series. I hate the Heat, but they are still at the top of the pack in the East until someone knocks them off.

  6. Bob says:

    Don’t get too excited, gentlemen! I’m glad ball is back in NYC in a big way. D Will looks like the old D Will and the Nets are rolling. I want whatever injection he got :-)

    The Heat have to be the favorites. They are healthy, they are playing incredible team defense, and their outside shooting is just unfair. James and Wade are healthy going into the playoffs. There will be no Indiana shockers or Celtic grind it outs. I think the Knicks have the best chance in the East. Melo is playing like a Hall of Famer with something to prove. Chandler is a little banged up, he is the defensive key to the team.

    Whatever happens, there is going to be some great playoff basketball. I wish Derrick Rose was back, though.

  7. Tom says:

    They’ve won one game against an injury riddled Bulls, don’t get your hopes up

  8. Objectivity says:

    @brooklyn nets vs knicks? lol, you mad? LeBron is head and shoulders above anyone and the Heat play well as a team as well. Heat in the conference finals for sure.

  9. Heat says:

    So funny they only had 1 good game versus a team that is really short handed by injuries and you guys already thinking about Brooklyn beating the Heat? Even if Brooklyn plays at your standards and they produce double figures, they still won’t beat the Heat in 7 games. I wish Brooklyn the best though, but i don’t think this is their year.

  10. MARK says:

    IT IS JUST GAME 1.VERY EARLY TO PREDICT.BULLS WILL DOMINATE THE REMAINING GAMES.BULLS FOR THE FINALS.

  11. Mark says:

    IT’S JUST STARTING…BULLS WILL DOMINATE THE REMAINING GAMES..GO BULLS!

  12. brooklyn says:

    i predicted before the playoffs that we can make the eastern conference finals NETS VS KNICKS

    • Will.I.Am says:

      you’re pushing your luck. That’s never going to happen

      • brooklyn says:

        nets can beat the heat

        1. no one in the heat is big enough to stop lopez

        2. reggie evans will hustle on every offensive board (which will slow down the heats fast break)

        3. D.Will vs Mario Chalmers (no contest)

        4. brooklyn got better fans (we wont turn our back after two losses) Brooooklyn!!

        NETS VS KNICKS

    • HEATFANSINCEWADE says:

      Keep dreaming. The Heat will not be stopped. 66-16 is not a joke, have respect!

  13. Iman says:

    If Joe Johnson can give the Nets 20-25 point per game against the Heat and come up clutch like he has been all year and also Gerald Wallace scoring in double figures consistently Nets could beat the Heat and play in the Finals.