By Jason Schott – BrooklynFans.com Reporter / Assignment Editor – @JESchott19
The Nets beat the Los Angeles Clippers 86-76 with a strong fourth quarter on Friday night to start a major weekend at Barclays Center.
The Clippers entered the game with an 8-3 record, and this was a battle of two of the best point guards in the NBA, in the Nets’ Deron Williams and the Clippers’ Chris Paul.
The Portland Trail Blazers come into Barclays Center on Sunday, and though they are 5-6, are always a tough team to deal with.
Then, on Monday night, the Nets have their long-awaited battle with the Knicks. This is a makeup of opening night that was cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy.
The Williams-Paul battle got off to a slow start, as neither was a factor in the first quarter.
Williams did make a great pass to Brook Lopez for a dunk along the baseline with 4:56 left in the first quarter that cut L.A.’s lead to 17-16. Lopez led the Nets with 8 points (4-for-6) in the first
Williams, on the other hand, was the victim of the best defensive play of the first quarter, as Blake Griffin blocked one of his dunks.
The score was tied at 25 at the end of the first. The Clippers got the lead quickly in the seconn, as Jamal Crawford put on quite a dribbling display before hitting a jumper to make it 27-25 Clippers.
Los Angeles took over the game in the second quarter, outscoring Brooklyn 22-15, as Paul and Griffin had 7 each.
The Clippers led 47-40 at halftime, and Williams got the Nets back in it in the thirdwith a 21-foot jumper and a three-pointer that cut the Clipper lead to 1.
Lopez blocked Griffin with just under five minutes left in the third and the score 56-55 Los Angeles.
There was a technical foul on Los Angeles’ DeAndre Jordan that gave Williams a free throw to tie the game at 60, which got a suprisingly lukewarm reaction from the crowd.
The huge crowd made up for it later in the third when they vehemently chanted “over-rated” at Blake Griffin and forced him to miss two free throws.
The game was tied at 63 entering the fourth and Keith Bogans gave the Nets the lead with a three-pointer.
The Nets appeared to be pulling away as they held a 74-69 edge with five minutes to go, but the Clippers tied it on a Jamal Crawford layup.
From there, the Nets took over, as Lopez got a running layup to make it 79-74 with 3:03 remaining. Lopez handled the ball better in this game than at any other point this season.
This was followed by a three-pointer in the corner from Joe Johnson to open up an 82-74 with 1:42 to go.
Williams got to the line and sunk two free throws with 1:14 left to make it 84-74 Brooklyn.
Lopez led the Nets with 26 points, his third straight game with 20 or more points. He shot 13-for-24 with five rebounds. On being aggressive, Lopez said, “Yes, you know, my guys are giving me good looks around the basket where I can take one dribble and go up and dunk it. I am getting a lot of easy looks thanks to them.”
Johnson had one of his best shooting nights of the season, making 8 of 12 shots, and scored 19 points. His counterpart in the backcourt, D-Will, had 11 points and eight assists.
The key off the reliable Nets bench tonight was Reggie Evans, who had 12 rebounds, four on the offensive end, in 22 minutes.
Nets Head Coach Avery Johnson said of the crowd, “Our fans were really into the game even from the starting line-ups. The intensity and the energy in the building was really contagious and I think that really helped out players.”