On Sunday afternoon, the Nets defeated the Portland Trail Blazers by a final score of 98-85.
The Skinny: Joe Johnson came out with a hot hand early, scoring seven straight points in the first five minutes as part of a 12-0 Nets run to establish the lead. Wesley Matthews helped Portland orchestrate a 15-5 run to close out the first quarter with the Trail Blazers leading by two.
Portland kept up the offensive pace to start the second quarter as Brooklyn’s defense struggled to get stops. Johnson kept firing away and hitting outside shots as part of a 9-2 Nets run which tied the game midway through the quarter. The Trail Blazers made a late run in the half to take a four-point lead at the break.
Brooklyn, led by Kris Humphries in the paint, started the third quarter with a 9-2 run to regain the lead. Back-and-forth lead changes ensued, and when the third quarter buzzer sounded, the teams were deadlocked at 70.
Both teams came out sloppy in the fourth quarter, but the Nets hit their groove midway through the frame when a 9-0 run turned a tie game into a nine-point Brooklyn lead. From there, the Nets cruised to a solid overall victory.
High Scorers: Johnson led all scorers with 21 points on 10-of-19 shooting. For the Trail Blazers, Matthews led the way with 20 points on 8-of-18 shooting.
Key Stats: The Nets’ bench outscored Portland’s bench, 31-9. Brooklyn also held a 48-34 rebounding advantage.
Who Was Hot: Deron Williams didn’t shoot all that well from the field, but he still managed a double-double with 15 points and 12 assists and even added a career-high four blocks. Humphries also had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Reggie Evans continues to dominate the glass as he pulled down 14 rebounds in 22:39. J.J. Hickson recorded a double-double for Portland with 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Who Was Not: Gerald Wallace struggled shooting from the field, hitting on just 8-of-8 shots for two points. Rookie sensation Damian Lillard, who Portland drafted with the pick acquired in the Wallace deal with the Nets, was roughed up by D-Will all game and managed just 13 points on 4-of-12 shooting. The Portland bench didn’t record a field goal until Sasha Pavlovic hit a mid-range jumper at the 9:50 mark of the fourth quarter. The Trail Blazers’ bench combined for just nine points on 3-of-14 shooting.
Fun Fact: Nets are now 6-1 on their home court to start the season, which in the second best start in team history. In 2002-2003 season, the Nets got off to an 18-1 start at home. Ironically, the one loss during that stretch was to the Dallas Mavericks, who Avery Johnson played for at the time.
Jim MancariThe Nets have really established a home-court advantage, which will be especially helpful with the New York Knicks coming to town.
Johnson put up another big game for Brooklyn as he continues to build confidence in his outside shot. With Brook Lopez in foul trouble for most of the game, Johnson took the game into his own hands.
It certainly helped the Nets that LaMarcus Aldridge missed the game with back spasms. But this Portland team can be very dangerous, with all five starters finishing the game in double figures. The Trail Blazers are averaging a league best 86.2 points per game from their starters.
Though there were a few lapses, this was another strong defensive effort from the Nets. Brooklyn has held its opponents under 100 points in seven of the last nine games, which is the second best mark in the NBA.
And again, the team played well in the third quarter after mostly struggling in third frames this season.
Brooklyn (8-4) will play the rescheduled opening night game Monday night against the Knicks at Barclays Center. The 7 p.m. game will be televised nationally on TNT.
Jim Mancari is a Contributor to SNYNets.com. Follow him on Twitter @JMMancari.