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Sunday, April 21, 2013
Nets resemble world-beaters in rout

By Mike Mazzeo



So this is why Joe Johnson thinks the Brooklyn Nets have a “great chance” if they face the top-seeded/defending champion Miami Heat in Round 2.

Sure, it was only one game.

One perfect half, really.

And sure, their first-round series is far from over.

But if the Nets can play the way they did in Saturday night’s 106-89 rout of the Chicago Bulls in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals -- executing flawlessly on both ends of the floor -- on any sort of consistent basis, you get the feeling they could give anyone trouble.

“This is probably one of the best games we’ve played all season,” Johnson said. “Everybody was so focused in at shootaround and it carried over to the game.”

In the morning, the Nets talked about how they were still “fighting for respect.”

“I think we’ve got a chip on our shoulder just because how the year has been, the ups and downs we’ve had, the setbacks here and there,” Deron Williams said. “We’re excited. We’re excited about this opportunity. We’re ready to go.”

They played like it. And if they continue to do so, they’re going to be dangerous.

Brook Lopez (21 points, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks) was unstoppable on the interior in his first postseason game, Williams (22 points, 7 assists, 3 steals) got whatever he wanted offensively and Gerald Wallace had his highest scoring output (14 points) since March 23, while holding Luol Deng to just 3-for-11 from the field. Johnson (16), C.J. Watson (14) and Andray Blatche (12) also finished in double figures.

The Nets, who picked up their first playoff win since May 16, 2007, shot 55.8 percent, outscored the Bulls 56-36 in the paint and committed just eight turnovers.

After jumping out to a 25-14 lead after the first quarter, the Nets shot 80 percent (16-for-20) in the second, knocked down 14 of their final 15 shots in the period and led 60-35 at the half. The sold-out crowd -- dressed in black as part of the team’s “Blackout in Brooklyn” initiative and which included owner Mikhail Prokhorov and ex-minority owner Jay-Z -- absolutely loved it.

This was the first major league playoff game in the borough since Oct. 10, 1956, and the Nets, playing like a confident team that expected to be in this position from Day 1, delivered a magnificent performance.

“Everybody was excited for this game. It’s been a long time coming for this franchise, this organization with the move and everything,” Williams said. “We expected to be here, and so we came out playing like we wanted to be here, and I think I used the word ‘locked in,’ we were locked in today.”

But the Nets know they'll have to replicate Saturday's performance to advance past the Bulls.

“Now they probably feel like they’ve got their backs against the wall, and that’s how we’ve got to play,” Williams said. “We have to play like this is a must-win game for us, Game 2. We can’t let them come in here and steal a game from us.”