By Chris Sheridan
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The generously-listed crowd of 12,131 gave the Nets a standing ovation tonight as they snapped their season-opening 18-game losing streak with a 97-91 win over the Bobcats.
And truth be told, they deserved it.
New Jersey was all effort for 48 minutes tonight, and that sustained effort paid off in the end as the Nets closed the game with an 11-5 run to finally get off the schneid. An example of that effort: Devin Harris went airborne and horizontal and leapt over three rows of fans while going after a loose ball late in the fourth quarter.
But the most credit for this victory goes to Courtney Lee, who returned to the starting lineup (he had missed seven games with a strained groin) and scored a career-high 27 points on 11-for-16 shooting with three 3s and three steals in the 97-91 victory over Charlotte.
Brook Lopez dominated his matchup with Tyson Chandler more than the box score showed, scoring 31 points with 14 rebounds (Chandler had 13 pts, 12 rebs, 4 blocks), and Devin Harris surged late after having an off-target (2-for-14) shooting night, scoring seven points from the line in the fourth period.
The Nets also had Keyon Dooling and Tony Battie back after each missed the first 18 games of the season due to injuries, and they should have Yi Jianlian (sprained knee ligament) back on Sunday or Tuesday. As it was, they used their 10th different starting lineup of the season.
The mood was so chipper at the final buzzer, public address announcer Gary Sussman borrowed some schtick from Yankees (and former Nets) radio announcer John Sterling, who yells "Thuh-uh-uh-uh-uh Yankees Win!" upon the final out of any Yankees victory. Sussman used the "Thuh-uh-uh-uh'' part.
For Lee, it had been 156 days since he won a meaningful game. "I remember, I dunked on Derek Fisher and had 13 in that game," Lee said, showing memory skills not quite up to par with his basketball skills (he scored only 4 points in that Game 3 victory over the L.A. Lakers during the finals, which he followed up with a 4-point performance in Game 4 -- part of the reason that he is no longer with the Orlando Magic). And who knows if he drew any motivation from it, but word of Lee's promotion to the starting five didn't reach the other p.a. announcer (not Sussman), who mistakenly introduced Trenton Hassell as the starter.
Lopez's memory was a little sharper, as he remembered that the Nets' previous victory also came against Charlotte, back on April 13 in the second-to-last game of the 2008-09 season. For Lopez, the wait between victories was 235 days.