The Brooklyn Nets were looking to build on all the hype that surrounded this “new-look” franchise based on their key off-season acquisitions of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry.
Unfortunately, the 2013-14 campaign didn’t exactly start off the way they had hoped on Wednesday night. Brooklyn started off fast, but the Cleveland Cavaliers put together a furious rally in the second half to knock off the visiting Nets, 98-94, in the team’s highly-touted season opener.
The Nets were without new head coach Jason Kidd, who’s currently serving a two-game suspension for a driving under the influence charge.
At first, it seemed that Brooklyn’s version of their “big three” would make a statement coming out of the gates, as Pierce, Garnett and All-Star center Brook Lopez looked efficient on both ends of the floor. But the Cavaliers, led Tristan Thompson’s 18 points, made all the key plays down the stretch to defend their home floor.
Cleveland got a key bucket from center Anderson Varejao to break a 91-91 tie and put the Cavs up, 93-91 with under 30 seconds left. Kyrie Irving and Varejao later sank five consecutive free throws in the closing seconds to offset a late three-pointer by Paul Pierce, who finished with 17 points for Brooklyn.
Brook Lopez paced the Nets scoring attack with 21 points and Kevin Garnett, another newcomer to Brooklyn, snagged 10 rebounds.
The game also served as a “coming out party” for Cleveland head coach Mike Brown, who was rehired over the summer after being released following the 2010 season – ironically the last that LeBron James was a member of the team, and former All-Star Andrew Bynum, who played in his first game since late in the 2012 season and after missing all of last season while with Philadelphia because of lingering knee problems.
Looking to challenge not only their crosstown rival Knicks but also the defending champion Miami Heat for “basketball supremacy,” the Nets spent millions of dollars during the offseason to assemble a cast they believe can make a run at the NBA World Championship by adding Pierce, Garnett and Terry in a blockbuster deal that involved the Boston Celtics.
But, at least temporary, Brooklyn’s plans took a step back and are hoping to have their issues corrected just in time for Friday night’s home-opener at Barclays Center against LeBron and the Heat.
''Obviously it hurts but we have to go back and look at the reason why we lost this game,'' Pierce said afterwards. ''Throughout the course of the season we have to understand it's always going to be about the little things. To be a championship team, you have to clean those things up.''