Rapid Reaction: Nets 116, Raptors 103 (London)
March, 4, 2011
By Ian Whittell | ESPNNewYork.com
Recap | Box score | Photos
WHAT IT MEANS: The New Jersey Nets finally beat an Atlantic Division opponent and improved their record to 18-43, hardly the sort of mark that will aid them in their bid for global domination but, hey, everyone has to start somewhere, right? More significantly, the victory handed Deron Williams his first taste of success in a Nets uni since his trade from the Utah Jazz. On the weekend that owner Mikhail Prokhorov is intensifying his efforts to convince the point guard to stay with the club, maybe this victory should not be underestimated. There were certainly enough positives to be taken out of the game -- and not just cultural ones. Williams' performance marked another step forward in his development as a Net while bigs Kris Humphries (18 points, 17 rebounds) and Brook Lopez (25 points) were impressive. A 14-3 run by the Nets early in the fourth period helped make the difference.
TIMELY TIMEOUT: That 14-3 Nets run opened up a 98-87 lead but two quick Toronto buckets cut the edge to seven and had Avery Johnson calling a timeout. Humphries subbed in and, on the next possession, tipped in a Sasha Vujacic miss. A driving layup from Williams and a three from the point guard and the lead quickly reached double digits with 2:43 to play.
THRILL FROM D-WILL: London basketball crowds cannot be considered among Europe's more knowledgeable -- after all, they were performing the Wave four minutes into the second half. But they appreciated Williams, his range of passing, his sleight of hand, some ankle-breaking moves on the likes of Jerryd Bayless and Sonny Weems. The point guard opened the second half with a three-pointer, an assist to Damion James and a driving dunk. You need not be a basketball expert to appreciate skill like that. When he finally left the game, with just under a minute left, it was to a standing O from large sections of the crowd.
STAR OF THE GAME: Humphries. The Nets forward was a major presence on the glass. He had seven points and nine boards in the first quarter alone, on the way to his team-leading 19th double-double of the season -- 18 points and 17 boards, one short of his career high.
LONDON CALLING: The novelty value of playing this game 3,000 mlles from North American soil certainly made this more interesting than an average regular season game between two Atlantic Division cellar-dwellers. After 13 regular season games in Japan or Mexico, this was the NBA's first in Europe and featured the league's first international owner and its only owners who live outside the U.S. (Toronto's Larry Tanenbaum and New Jersey's Prokhorov). There are no pre-season games scheduled for Europe in 2011 -- cynics might suggest a fear of a potential lockout made that inadvisable.
BENCH TIME: Dan Gadzuric, the Dutch center who moved to New Jersey from the Golden State Warriors last month as part of the Troy Murphy trade, sat throughout the game. That was a shame given that his mother Dragoslava and sister Gloria had made the journey over the English Channel from their home in Den Haag in the hope of seeing him play. "They don't get the chance to see me play much," said Gadzuric before the tip. "It's a good opportunity for them to check out the game, see the sights." Unfortunately, one of the sights they didn't get to see was Gadzuric on court.
WHAT"S NEXT: More of the same. The second game of the European doubleheader takes place same time, same venue on Saturday. Both games have sold out the 18,559-seat arena that will host the final of the 2012 Olympic basketball tournament in 17 months.