Nets take care of business in home opener
Lopez Returns as Brooklyn Bludgeons Wounded OKC, 116-85
Brook Lopez was back and Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were notably absent, paving the way for the Brooklyn Nets to open the home portion of their schedule with a 116-85 rout of the Oklahoma City Thunder Monday night before a sellout crowd of 17,732.
“We came out and took care of business,” noted head coach Lionel Hollins after watching his team dominate from start to finish en route to the largest margin of victory ever in a Nets home opener, be it here in Brooklyn, across the river in New Jersey or during the franchise’s early years on Long Island.
“We were aggressive and we attacked,” Hollins added, dismissing the fact that the Thunder were without the reigning league MVP in Durant (foot) and his lethal cohort Westbrook (hand), both of whom sat with injuries.
“We got the lead on them in the first quarter and we increased it in the second quarter. … But I told the guys, ‘Don’t get tired of doing the right thing and just go out and do what we do. Don’t worry about them. And this is a game we should win if we play well.’ We did play well and we did win the game.”
Lopez, who hadn’t played since Dec. 20, 2013 due to a foot injury that has sidelined him for most of two of the previous three seasons, gave the Nets 24 solid minutes.
The 7-foot center scored 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting, grabbed six rebounds, went 6-for-7 from the free-throw line and blocked a pair of shots, spearheading a Brooklyn defense that held the short-handed Thunder to 39 percent from the field and forced 17 turnovers.
“It felt good to be out there with the guys,” admitted Lopez, who was an All-Star for the first time in his career in 2012-13 before being limited to only 17 games last season.
“It was a little frustrating personally because I got in some early foul trouble, but our guys kept playing,” he added. “We were fantastic out there. We were great defensively. There were really no lulls. We moved the ball offensively and got what we wanted. We couldn’t have started off a better way at home.”
Brooklyn’s backcourt continued to shine as Deron Williams (17 points and nine assists) and Joe Johnson (13 points and six assists) combined to hit half of their 18 shots during the Nets’ 53 percent effort from the floor.
“Well, I think we could be a good offensive team,” Hollins said after the Nets improved to 2-1 overall on the young season. “But it’s keyed by sharing the ball, moving the basketball and we did that.”
The Nets, who will host Minnesota here on Wednesday night, dished out 25 assists while committing only eight turnovers, the same amount of giveaways they totaled during Saturday night’s 102-90 triumph in Detroit.
They also got a major contribution from the new-look “Bench Mob”, as Alan Anderson spearheaded a 50-point effort by the reserves, pouring in 18 on 7-of-8 shooting, including a perfect 4-of-4 performance from 3-point range.
Though the Thunder were clearly compromised without two of the game’s biggest stars, Lopez wasn’t willing to downplay the importance of how well Brooklyn played in its first home game since last year’s Eastern Conference semifinal loss to Miami.
“I don’t know if we have a bar right now,” Lopez said. “It’s high up there, very high up there. The sky is the limit for us, and we just have to continue to play together and do what we do. We know every time we step on the floor what we’re supposed to do as a team, and we think we can do that.”
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Seldom-seen Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov took in Monday’s home opener from his customary suite atop the arena.
He shot down the notion that he is actively seeking to sell controlling interest in the franchise, took a not-so-veiled shot at former Brooklyn coach Jason Kidd and admitted that he likely wouldn’t back up his promise of getting married if the Nets don’t meet his five-year championship mandate.
“My position is that I will not give up control of the team,” Prokhorov said. “But you know, I am quite happy when somebody sends me a nice offer without taking my controlling interest. I think for the time being nothing is imminent. But still I think it is not bad just to listen.”
Kidd, who forced his way out of Brooklyn via a failed power play against general manager Billy King, got Prokhorov to utter what he dubbed one of his favorite English proverbs: “Don’t let the door hit you where the good Lord has split you,”
The Russian billionaire-bachelor, who intimated during his introductory press conference that he’d wed in five years if the Nets were not world champions, cracked up the media with his reason for staying single.
“Just between you and me, I haven’t sent research for a new wife you know,” he jibed. “I stay committed to the championship. By the way, we have lost George Clooney.”
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Nothing But Net: The Nets improved to 21-18 all-time in home openers with Monday’s victory. … F Kevin Garnett, who had six points and six rebounds against the Thunder, tied Cliff Robinson for eighth place all-time in games played at 1,380. … Lopez’s two blocks Monday moved him past Mike Gminski into sole possession of third place on the franchise’s all-time list with 600. … The Nets have won 10 of their last 11 games against Western Conference opponents, a record they will look to improve upon against the T-Wolves Wednesday night.
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