The Nets won their preseason opener on Tuesday night at Barclays Center, 111-94, over Maccabi Tel Aviv Electra.
Lionel Hollins made his debut as Nets Head Coach, and he said of his emotions before the game, “Just excitement, being in a gym again, playing the game. I said it when I was driving, you know, I was getting excited. I got excited yesterday to know that we’re going to start playing. Other than that, it’s just another game.”
Nets center Brook Lopez looked good in his first action since December 20, 2013, when he went down with a foot injury that knocked him our for the remainder of last season. He led the way with 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting. The key thing was seeing Lopez move around without any issues and with a hint of quickness.
Lopez said of his return, “It was good. It was great to be back on the floor. It was a fantastic feeling to be back out there with the guys. It was a fun night.”
Hollins said of Lopez, “Well, he did good. I yelled at him a few times. I didn’t want to put him back in in the first half and have him get a third foul because I wanted him to play free, and it’s a good thing I did because he picked up two more in the third quarter. I wanted him to get a rhythm and flow. It’s a good start for a guy who has basically been out for a couple of years. He’s been moving pretty good and pain free.”
The Nets starting lineup featured the highly-touted Bojan Bogdanovic of Croatia at shooting guard, and he had 8 points on 3-for-8 shooting, including 2-4 on 3-pointers and 1 assist and 1 rebound along with Williams at point guard, Joe Johnson and Kevin Garnett at the forwards, and Lopez at center.
In addition to Lopez, Williams is another Net who is overcoming injuries,, as he had surgeries on both ankles in the offseason. He had 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting and 7 assists.
Lopez said of playing with Williams, “Having D-Will out there, feeling great and back to his old self, he energizes the team and is a sparkplug for us offensively. He moves the ball well and is a threat to put it in the bucket, so people have respect for him defensively. He is very vocal and one of the leaders when it comes to defense in terms of rotations.”
Other Nets that scored in double figures were Joe Johnson with 14 points, Mirza Teletovic and Andrei Kirilenko with 13 each and Mason Plumlee with 12 points off the bench.
The Nets led 31-22 at the end of the first quarter and Maccabi cut the lead to 39-37 five minutes into the second quarter. The Nets responded by going on a 15-3 run, which included Plumlee getting three baskets and capped by a hook shot from Garnett. The Nets held a 59-47 lead at halftime.
The Nets took the game over in the third quarter, led by Williams, who hit three jumpers in a row to give them a 78-57 lead with 5:42 left in the period. they maintained that lead and led 88-69 at the end of the third. Maccabi did not get closer than 14 points in the fourth.
Hollins said of the win, “I thought the first unit really got after it – executed offensively. Our team defense was good, then we subbed and went to the second unit. We struggled to score early, and I think we had six points in the first six minutes of the second quarter. Then I put Deron back in the game, and suddenly we scored 15 points. Just scoring and making the right decision throughout the game has to get better. I thought we scored, and they couldn’t stop us. We went through some pick-and-roll stuff, and they couldn’t stop it, and they couldn’t stop Brook (Lopez) in the lane and we played off that. We have to get up and down the court better, we have to defend individually but I thought our team defense was pretty good. When we held them under 100 points with all the guys that shoot the way that they shoot, they took 26 threes, they shot 23 percent, we held them to 46 percent overall.”
Jeremy Pargo, who used to play in the NBA for Cleveland and Memphis, led Maccabi with 27 points on 12-for-25 shooting with 7 assists. Pargo said of their focus going into tonight’s game, “The thing that is at my forehead, at the front of my head is playing with Maccabi Tel Aviv. And that we are doing the best that we can and that’s our focus. This league (NBA), it’s just we can’t play in this league so we have to focus on what is in front of us. That is one thing we want to do as a team is look forward to what we have coming up.”
Pargo played for Hollins in Memphis in 2011-12, and Hollins said before the game of seeing Pargo, “The question is how does he feel about seeing me again. I’m sure he’s going to try to get 30 tonight, he probably doesn’t have many good memories of being with me.”