EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- After raising their first division and conference championship banners, the New Jersey discovered that defending them will not be easy.
Jason Kidd had 16 points, 12 assists and 8 rebounds and he stepped up in the closing minutes to cut off an Atlanta run in leading the Nets to a 105-94 win over the undermanned Hawks on Wednesday night.
"Every night teams are going to test us,'' said veteran Nets guard Lucious Harris, who helped raise the banners before the tipoff. "I thought we were a little lackadaisical. You have to take your hat off to Atlanta, they never stopped playing.''
The Hawks used a 13-point run led by Jason Terry to cut the Nets' lead to 90-86 with 4:03 to play, but that's when Kidd showed why he is one of the NBA's elite players.
The point guard, who is in the final year of his contract, stole a pass from Terry and scored on a breakaway layup. He later assisted on a basket by Kenyon Martin and added a driving layup to seal the season opener.
"When the game is on the line, the cream rises to the top,''
Nets coach Byron Scott said. "He is best at the league at his
position. He takes a lot of pride when the game is on the line,
making plays not only for himself but for his teammates.''
Kidd, who finished with four steals, said the Nets were switching on any pick-and-rolls to Glenn Robinson and he was lucky enough to get his hands on the ball.
"It was a big play because they were on a run,'' said Kidd.
Robinson finished with 34 points and 10 rebounds in his first regular-season game since being acquired from Milwaukee in August. Terry added 21, including two 3-pointers in the late run.
"A lot of teams are going to be prepared for them,'' Robinson said of the Nets' role as defending conference champions. "A lot of teams are going to come out and try to beat these guys because they were the best team in the East. When you're on top, everybody is gunning to knock you down.''
For most of the game, the Nets had little problem with the Hawks, building double-digit leads with big dose of talent and defense.
Martin and Richard Jefferson added 15 points apiece and Dikembe Mutombo, Kerry Kittles and Harris all had 13 points. Martin added a game-high 11 rebounds in helping New Jersey to a 47-34 advantage on the boards.
The only thing that seemed to go wrong for the Nets was they didn't seem to get any respect from the officiating crew of Hue Hollins, Joe DeRosa and Scott Wall.
Mutombo, who was acquired in a major trade for Keith Van Horn, seemed particularly frustrated with a couple of non-calls underneath. Even Kidd wasn't able to get a call on a fast break in which he seemed to be hit across the face.
The Nets took control with a 10-point, first-quarter run that
Martin started with a layup. Kidd hit a driving basket, newcomer
Rodney Rogers made a jumper, Martin hit two free throws and Harris
capped the spurt with a jumper.
There were times Kidd and the Nets tried too hard to put on a
show. Kidd had a clear breakaway in the third quarter and elected
to leave an ally-oop pass for Jefferson, who missed the dunk.
The Nets hired former Wagner College coach Tim Capstraw as
their radio analyst for the season. He spent the last three years
doing college basketball on radio and TV. ... New Jersey was 6-1 in
the preseason. The Hawks were 4-3. ... Both teams shot well with
the Nets hitting 46 percent from the field and the Hawks 44. ...
The Hawks had 22 turnovers, three more than the Nets.
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