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Hollins’ ‘preaching’ finally pays off for Nets

Brooklyn Uses Fourth-Quarter Surge to Post First Win in Houston

November 12, 2015 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brook Lopez drives past Dwight Howard Wednesday night in Houston as the Nets used a big fourth quarter to pull out their first win of the season over the Rockets. AP photo

Rebound the ball, defend the paint and take care of the basketball.

These are just a few of the basic principles Nets head coach Lionel Hollins tries to instill in his team.

At long last, Brooklyn did enough of each to secure its first victory of the season Wednesday night in Houston, using a dominant fourth-quarter surge en route to a 106-98 triumph over the Rockets in front of 18,155 fans at Toyota Center.

“When you get a win, it validates all the preaching and all the working that you’re doing,” Hollins said after the Nets ended a season-opening 0-7 slide with their first win in their last nine visits to Houston dating to March 13, 2006.

“When you do get a victory you can say, ‘Hey, this is what we’re talking about,’” he added. “Because in that victory there’s a lot of things that I’ve been preaching and other coaches have been preaching.”

Spearheaded by a season-high 22 points and nine rebounds off the bench from Bojan Bogdanovic, the Nets beat the Rockets on the boards by a 60-45 margin, outscored them 33-12 on second-chance points, limited their turnovers to 11 after a rough start and blocked 11 shots.

Joe Johnson added 16 points and 10 assists, Shane Larkin chipped in 15 points off the pine and Brook Lopez shook off a sore foot to put up 14 points, 12 boards and five blocks as Brooklyn put an end to any notion that it may challenge the worst start to a season in franchise and NBA history, an 0-18 beginning to the 2009-10 campaign.

“We played our most complete game of the season,” noted Lopez. “Obviously, it’s good to get that first one. It’s a breakthrough.”

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A breakthrough that the Nets doubtlessly hope morphs into a turning point in their thus-far ill-fated campaign.

Brooklyn, which used a key 6-0 run in the fourth quarter to turn a tie game into a 99-93 lead with just over three minutes to play, had been the worst team in the NBA in 3-point shooting entering the contest, making 23 percent of its attempts from beyond the arc.

But Bogdanovic and Larkin combined to go 5-for-9 on 3s, catapulting the Nets to a season-best 8-of-17 effort from long range.

“It was the first time we didn’t have black holes in our game. That’s the biggest reason why we won,” Bogdanovic told the Associated Press. “I already saw that we were one of the worst teams in the league on 3-point shots. So I hope that now things are going to change.”

James Harden, the runner-up for MVP honors a season ago, poured in 23 points and perennial All-Star center Dwight Howard added 20 points and 17 boards for the Rockets, who had a four-game winning streak snapped after being outscored, 27-15, by the Nets over the final 12 minutes.

“I’m worried about our team right now,” Houston coach Kevin McHale admitted. “We haven’t caught a rhythm yet. I’ve said it all since we’ve been together. We haven’t been able to put together long runs of just good, solid basketball.”

With the zero finally removed from their still less-than-impressive record, the Nets will try to continue practicing what Hollins preaches when they head to Sacramento Friday night before visiting the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors in Oakland, California, on Saturday.

The Nets return to Brooklyn next Tuesday, when they will host the Atlanta Hawks at Downtown’s Barclays Center.

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In other local pro sports news, the New York Cosmos punched their ticket to this weekend’s North American Soccer League Championship Final by edging past the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, 2-1, last Saturday at Coney Island’s MCU Park.

International soccer legend Raul, playing his final season as a professional, quite appropriately snapped a 1-1 deadlock in the 61st minute as New York erased an early one-goal deficit to earn the right to host the Ottawa Fury this Sunday at Hofstra University’s James M. Shuart Stadium.

“We have done enough during the year to deserve to be in the final,” Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese said.

“I think it was a good game today. We knew that Fort Lauderdale was going to be a tough team to play against. They had a lot of energy and have some quality players.”

The Cosmos, who won six Soccer Bowl Trophies during the halcyon days of the 1970s and ’80s behind superstars like Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, Giorgio Chinaglia and Carlos Alberto, will kick off Sunday’s final at 5 p.m.

“Now that we’re through, we have to work this week,” added Savarese.

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