Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov jumped out of a seat with a smile on his face, clapping from his suite above section 108. The sellout crowd of 17,732 began chanting “Brook-lyn! Brook-lyn!”
Center Brook Lopez had essentially just sealed the franchise’s first-ever regular-season victory in its new borough.
With the Nets nursing a 97-95 lead late in the fourth quarter Saturday night, Lopez’s three-point play with 59.4 seconds left gave them enough breathing room to escape with a 107-100 win over the resilient Toronto Raptors on Saturday night at the $1 billion Barclays Center.
“Big shot, strong move,” Johnson said of Lopez’s clutch bucket.
The 24-year-old ended up scoring a team-high 27 points, while adding five rebounds, a block and a steal in 32 minutes of action. He shot 8-for-17 from the field, while going 11-for-15 at the free throw stripe.
“He made some big shots for us, but not only that, he also made some strong moves and got to the free throw line,” said Johnson, who didn’t seem as disappointed in Lopez’s low rebound total because he was doing a better job of going after missed caroms.
Lopez, who played just five games last season because of an ankle injury, was aggressive from the opening tip. And he finished off the Raptors with an aggressive move inside, taking a pass from a driving Gerald Wallace, absorbing contact from DeMar DeRozan and finishing strong.
“‘G’ made a fantastic play, he drove, he got me the ball and I was fortunate to finish it,” Lopez said. “It was all Gerald.”
Lopez has been a Net his entire career, ever since the franchise made the Stanford product its first-round pick back in 2008. He’s played in East Rutherford, Newark, and now, Brooklyn. Prior to signing a four-year, $60 million contract to remain with the Nets, Lopez’s name was frequently mentioned in trade rumors for Dwight Howard. Somehow, he endured, and played a huge role in leading his team to victory on Saturday night.
“It was pretty amazing,” Lopez said. “Especially the crowd, they were fantastic the whole game.”
• Johnson said the team will be off Sunday, but they go out and do something for somebody in the community in light of the devastation and destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy.
• Newcomer Joe Johnson, who made his Net debut and logged a team-high 40 minutes, said the “Brook-lyn! Brook-lyn!” chants gave him the chills.
• Avery Johnson said that his starting five plus Andray Blatche, Reggie Evans, MarShon Brooks and C.J. Watson formed “kind of our nine-man rotation.” Watson scored 15 points in 28 minutes, while Evans grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds in just 16 minutes.