NEWARK, N.J. -- Avery Johnson coaches basketball teams for a living. He doesn't write movie scripts.
But if he did, the New Jersey Nets coach couldn't have written a better ending to his debut than what transpired at the Prudential Center on Wednesday night against Detroit.
His new team -- coming off a disastrous 12-win season -- trailed by 10 points with six minutes to go on opening night. But in their first game in a new arena, playing in front of a new owner and for a new coach, the Nets made that 12-win season look like ancient history.
The Nets showed the resolve that was missing last season, outscoring the Detroit Pistons 13-3 in the final 1:40 to pull off a stunning 101-98 win.
"If this was a movie, for a team coming out of a situation that we've come out of and a new team banding together, it's a beautiful ending," Johnson said minutes after the Nets completed the fourth-quarter rally.
Things looked dire for New Jersey midway through the fourth. A three-point lead late in the third quarter became a 10-point deficit with 6:05 to go, thanks to a flurry of turnovers, missed layups and a porous defense.
"I think we would have folded last year," Brook Lopez (25 points) said of the team that lost an NBA-record 18 games to begin the 2009-2010 season.
But they didn't fold. Not this season.
Instead, reserve guard Jordan Farmar hit a 3-pointer to pull the Nets within four with 1:32 to go, then picked Ben Gordon's pocket and found an open Devin Harris for a fadeaway jump shot on the next possession. Harris hit the 14-footer as he was fouled by Gordon and converted the subsequent free throw to pull the Nets within one at 95-94.
After a Rodney Stuckey miss and a Nets 20-second timeout, Harris brought the ball down the floor and penetrated on Will Bynum. Bynum knocked the ball free as Harris drove, but the Nets points guard dove and tipped it back to an open Anthony Morrow, who drilled a 3-pointer from the right side to put the Nets up 97-95. It was their first lead since 11:24 of the fourth quarter.
"We looked like we were finished and we kept playing," Johnson said. "It showed the personality of our team."
And the Nets showed that personality in front of new owner Mikhail Prokhorov.
Prior to the game, Prokhorov tempered his once grandiose expectations for the Nets. He'd previously stated that he believed the Nets would make the playoffs in their first season of his ownership and win an NBA championship within five seasons.
Given the chance to reiterate those expectations Wednesday, Prokhorov demurred.
"I just want to have fun," he said.
Maybe Prokhorov, who was on hand along with part-owner Jay-Z, will realize it's OK to dream again about the playoffs after what he saw opening night.
Johnson, for one, never seemed to get caught up in the owner's outlandish expectations. He's said he's only worried about winning the game at hand.
And his first one with the Nets couldn't have turned out any better.
Said Johnson: "This was a beautiful ending."
Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.