|The Brooklyn Nets play the Toronto Raptors in their first NBA basketball game in their new arena, the Barclays Center, in Brooklyn, New York, November 3, 2012. Photo by Ray Stubblebine, Reuters.
The Brooklyn Nets baptized their new Barclays Center home with a 107-100 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Saturday as the first major professional sports team in 55 years to call Brooklyn their home.
The Nets led by 13 points in the third quarter, but had to hold off the Raptors, who closed within 97-95 with 75 seconds left before a three-point play by Brook Lopez gave Brooklyn the necessary cushion in their first game of the season.
"The experience was just absolutely amazing," said Lopez. "The crowd brought so much energy, its Brooklyn energy."
Center Lopez led the Nets with 27 points, while Kyle Lowry scored 28 points and DeMar DeRozan had 25 for Toronto, who fell to 0-2 after an opening home loss to the Indiana Pacers.
The Nets, who moved to Brooklyn from New Jersey, had been scheduled to play their home opener on Thursday against cross-city rivals the Knicks, but the game was postponed because of mass transit problems due to damage by the superstorm Sandy that hit the area on Monday.
National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern greeted the crowd, expressing concern for storm victims before declaring: "Welcome Brooklyn, USA, to the NBA."
Nets All-Star guard Deron Williams thanked the crowd for turning out given the hardships and destruction wrought by the storm and said: "We hope to represent Brooklyn right."
Williams scored 19 points and doled out nine assists in the win.
Former Brooklyn Dodgers players Ralph Branca and Joe Pignatano participated in pre-game festivities as ties to Brooklyn's fabled sporting past, dormant since the Dodgers left for Los Angeles after the 1957 Major League Baseball season.
The Nets also debuted a new team anthem and dropped down from the rafters on a cable their new mascot - a masked, shield-bearing "Brooklyn Knight".
Overcoming a slow start with Toronto leading by eight after the first quarter, the Nets turned on the jets in the second with help from their bench players to outscore them 33-17 for a 60-52 halftime lead.
The Nets extended their lead to double digits before the Raptors turned it into a nail-biter at the finish.
A three-pointer by Lowry, who had fueled Toronto's fast start by hitting his first three shots from beyond the arc, put the game on the line with a three-pointer to make it 97-95.
But Lopez received a pass down low from Gerald Wallace and made the bucket, drawing a double fist pump from the Nets' billionaire Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov up in the stands.
Fouled on the play, Lopez sank the free throw to put the Nets ahead 100-95 and chants of "Brooklyn, Brooklyn" serenaded the team.
Joe Johnson, the Nets' big off-season addition, scored 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting.
"I had a lot of jitters coming into this game," the swing man said. "At the beginning I was moving too fast, trying too hard.
"Our second unit really did it for us in the second quarter," Johnson added. "They gave us a nice lead, a cushion and we coasted the rest of the game."
Guard C.J. Watson came off the bench to score 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting including 3-of-4 from three-point range. Power forward Reggie Evans pulled down 13 rebounds in 16 minutes on the floor.
(Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)