NEW YORK (AP) — The Brooklyn Nets looked as if they were thinking ahead to their first matchup against the crosstown New York Knicks for the first three quarters Sunday.
Deron Williams had 15 points, 12 assists, four blocked shots and three steals, and the Nets used a run early in the fourth to break open a tie game and beat the Portland Trail Blazers 98-85 on Sunday.
Reserve forward Reggie Evans said “we didn’t have no energy, no life” until he and his teammates turned up their offensive and defensive effort in the fourth quarter just like they did on Friday night in a victory against the Los Angeles Clippers.
“It goes to show when it comes time to buckle down and get stops, we can make something happen. We just have to try to that in the first three quarters and not just in the fourth,” said Joe Johnson, who scored 21 points.
The Nets’ much talked about first game in their new home against the Knicks was postponed on opening day because of Superstorm Sandy and was rescheduled for Monday night.
Kris Humphries had 14 points and 10 rebounds for Brooklyn, which was looking forward to the Knicks and a crowd that they hope will be on their side as opposed to past few years when the teams met in New Jersey.
“There’s going to be more energy. Each play is going to be bigger. So I think it’s tough because of the atmosphere but we have to come out and execute, not get caught up in the Nets-Knicks thing,” Humphries said.
Said Williams: “There’s definitely going to be some Knicks fans in there but I don’t think it will be as bad as it was last year.”
The Knicks are 9-3 and have the best record in the Eastern Conference. The Nets are right behind them at 8-4.
Brook Lopez had 15 for Brooklyn, which has won five straight games at Barclays Center. The 6-1 beginning on the new home court is the Nets’ best start since the 2002-03 season when they won 18 of their first 19 at home in New Jersey.
Brooklyn headed into the fourth quarter tied 70-all after reserve guard Marshawn Brooks’ layup with 1.7 seconds left in the third. Both teams quickly exchanged leads in the opening minutes of the final quarter before the Nets went on a 9-0 run and never looked back.
With the scored tied 74-all with 8:32 remaining, Johnson found C.J. Watson open near the Portland bench for a 3-pointer that gave the Nets the lead for good with 8:14 remaining. Evans was then fouled and made a pair of free throws to make it 79-74 and after Damion Lillard lost the ball out of bounds, Evans found an open Lopez for a dunk and after Lillard missed an 18-footer, Johnson’s floater increased the lead to 83-74.
Portland’s J.J. Hickson then broke the scoreless run with a layup to cut the Nets’ lead to 83-76. Lopez answered with a shot off the glass.
“There was a sense of urgency,” Nets coach Avery Johnson said. “We talked about it at halftime. I was really disappointed with our defense at halftime.”
Brooklyn held Portland to 19-of-43 shooting from the field and 5 of 10 beyond the arc in the first half but in the fourth quarter held the Trail Blazers to only six baskets.
“We kind of let it slip away in the fourth quarter. The rebounding hurt us. Brooklyn is a big physical team and that may have had an effect on us on offense late in the game,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said.
The Trail Blazers were out-rebounded 48-34 by Brooklyn and had 16 turnovers, including seven in the final quarter.
Wesley Matthews scored 20 points and J.J. Hickson had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Trail Blazers, who were without LaMarcus Aldridge. The All-Star forward was out with a stiff back.
Rookie Damion Lillard added 13 points, six rebounds and seven assists. The Blazers selected Lillard with the first-round draft pick they acquired in the Gerald Wallace trade with the Nets last spring.
“They made shots and we didn’t. I think we fought the whole game and we kept ourselves in position to win the game,” Lillard said.
“To be without our best player and come to Brooklyn and then have a chance down the stretch . Just to be in that position without LaMarcus says a lot about our team,” he added.
Deron Williams, who again struggled with his shot, made a 3-pointer that upped the lead to 92-80 and then found Humphries for a layup to extend the lead to 94-80 with 1:57 remaining.
Andray Blatche scored 13 and Evans had 14 boards, a new season high.
Nicolas Batum and Meyers Leonard each scored 12 for Portland.
NOTES: Aldridge, a game-time decision, received treatment earlier Sunday from the training staff and was in uniform but never entered into the game. . Portland’s game in Brooklyn was the first of a seven-game, 11-day road trip, their longest this season. . Nets point guard Williams had a career-high four blocked shots.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)