Nets finally defend their home floor
Topple East River Rival Knicks for First Victory under Interim Coach
Tony Brown’s voice was considerably hoarse after barking out plays and encouraging the struggling Nets to defend their home floor for the first time in over a month.
Brooklyn’s interim head coach didn’t damage his vocal cords for naught as the Nets fought off the Carmelo Anthony-less Knicks, 110-104, Wednesday in front of a bi-partisan sellout crowd of 17,732 at Downtown’s Barclays Center, ending a 10-game home losing streak and posting their first triumph on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues since Dec. 10.
“Games like this, it’s going to help turn our fan base around,” Brown said with a noticeably scratchy voice as Brooklyn ended a five-game losing streak overall since the loss of veteran point guard Jarrett Jack to a season-ending knee injury.
“If we continue to play in this kind of fashion, we’ll fill the seats,” added Brown, noting the downturn in attendance at the state-of-the-art arena during the Nets’ brutal 11-28 start to Season Four here in Brooklyn.
“But we’ve got to show them first. It’ll take time, but tonight was a good start.”
Brook Lopez scored 20 points and pulled down eight rebounds in a showdown with twin brother Robin, Thaddeus Young added 19 points and 11 boards and Shane Larkin, bumped from the starting lineup by Brown in favor of Donald Sloan, poured in 17 points off the bench as the Nets outscored the Knicks by a combined 16 points in the first and fourth quarters.
“The environment was so much fun out there,” Brook Lopez said. “It was just live and if we could get something like that each and every night and we earn that respect and we get people coming to the game, it’s something great to feed off of.”
Joe Johnson added 14 points, seven rebounds and six assists for Brooklyn, which will host Portland on Friday night in search of its first back-to-back victories at Barclays Center since Dec. 8-10.
“Hopefully we can build something off of it,” Johnson told the Associated Press.
Derrick Williams scored a career high-tying 31 points for the Knicks, who were without Anthony due to an ankle injury the Brooklyn-born forward suffered Tuesday night in a win over Boston.
While Brown savored his first-ever win as the Nets’ fill-in head man, rumors have already begun swirling that Brooklyn owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s management team is actively seeking what would be coach No. 6 of the Downtown era.
The names of Bryan Colangelo for the Nets’ vacant general manager job and Tom Thibodeau as a potential long-term solution at head coach have already been mentioned in reports by ESPN and NetsDaily.
Thibodeau was the head coach of the Bulls when Chicago ousted Brooklyn from the first round of the playoffs with a Game 7 victory at Barclays Center during the franchise’s inaugural season in our fair borough, resulting in the firing of then-interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo.
But for one night, at least, Brown could relish a big win over the Nets’ arch enemies from across the Brooklyn Bridge.
“I wanted them to play free and with a bit of pace,” Brown said after watching his free-wheeling unit shoot 52 percent from the field, including a blistering 9-of-17 from 3-point range.
“I saw a little passion,” he added. “I thought our guys were excited to play in the second half, especially down the stretch and they fed off each other. That was one of the first times in a long time I’ve seen that with this team.”
There will have to be a lot more passion, and a steady succession of victories if Brown hopes to lose that interim tag between now and the end of the regular season.
“I think everyone had a hand in this victory,” Brown said. “We took a big punch in the second half. We took a big punch from them, but stayed with it and finished it off.”
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