The Nets kicked off a new era with a victory over the Toronto Raptors in the first pro sports home game in Brooklyn since 1957 — providing a moment of respite for a borough still reeling from Hurricane Sandy.
The Nets bounced back from an early first quarter deficit, riding on a 27-point performance by center Brook Lopez to a 107–100 win — a victory that whipped fans in the newly minted arena into a frenzy, chanting “Brooklyn!” as the clock wound down.
Hoops fans in the sold-out crowd of 17,732 said the experience was everything they hoped it would be.
“It’s so good to be here,” said Bill Donlon, a Nets fan who trekked to the game from Long Island. “This was awesome.”
The match-up became the Nets opener after Mayor Bloomberg canceled the team’s much-hyped debut against cross-river rivals the New York Knicks on Thursday following the storm.
There were a sprinkling of empty seats on the first level of the arena — not a pretty a sight on opening night, but not altogether unsurprising with limited train access entering the borough and gas lines wrapped around service stations across the region.
The stadium drew rave reviews from even those whose livelihoods had been directly affected by Hurricane Sandy.
“I’m so proud to have been here for the first game,” said Rick Mast, who runs the artisanal chocolate factory Mast Brothers in Williamsburg with his brother, Michael.
“Even though there was a hurricane, this victory was very sweet for us,” said the chocolatier, whose business suffered some damage at a Manhattan location during the storm. “It’s something that brings the community together.”
Mast’s bearded visage appeared on the JumboTron during a dance break to great cheers.
NBA commissioner David Stern and Borough President Marty Markowitz tipped off the night with speeches before the jump ball.
“Brooklyn-style basketball is here,” said Markowitz, flanked by two Nets dancers. “How … sweet … it … is!”
And Jay-Z made his mark on the game, from his courtside seats right next to the Nets bench with Beyonce, to the snippets of his songs that burst out between plays.
He sported high-end Nike Air Jordan I Custom “Brooklyn Zoo” sneakers — one of ten pairs in existence — made from much of the animal kingdom, including elephant, ostrich, boa, crocodile, python, calf, lizard, alligator, and stingray.
The event went off largely without a hitch, though some fans complained about speaker problems.
“The Nets arena announcer sounds like he’s talking on an old school subway conductor speaker system,” wrote journalist Ben Adler on Twitter. “That is not a compliment.”
Even the team — which relocated its workouts to the Barclays Center this week due to storm damage at its practice facility in New Jersey — is already feeling at home in the borough.
“The experience was amazing,” said Lopez. “The crowd brought so much Brooklyn energy.”
The Nets host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night and will take on the Knicks in a rescheduled match-up on Nov. 26.