Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Men in black bury Bulls

Williams, Nets turn Brooklyn blackout into blowout in series opener

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NEW YORK -- Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and the Nets turned the Brooklyn blackout into a blowout, beating the Chicago Bulls 106-89 on Saturday night in Game 1 of their playoff series.

Williams scored 22 points, Lopez had 21 and the Nets ripped apart the Bulls' vaunted defence with a spectacular second quarter, when they made 16 of 20 shots.

"That's a hell of a performance," Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said.

Joe Johnson finished with 16 for the Nets, who made their successful first season in Brooklyn even better with a victory in their first playoff appearance since 2007. They will host Game 2 on Monday night.

The Nets wore their road black uniforms and fans were encouraged to wear black as well to make it a "blackout" for the first major post-season game in Brooklyn since Oct. 10, 1956, when the Yankees beat the Dodgers in Game 7 of the World Series at Ebbets Field.

The Nets then came out white-hot, shooting nearly 56 per cent and putting six players in double figures.

"It was the end of the first (quarter) and they hit us with a haymaker, got us back on our heels," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "So end of the first, second quarter, poor defence, poor intensity, poor energy on offence. You can't win like that."

Carlos Boozer had 25 points and eight rebounds for the Bulls, who had Joakim Noah in the starting lineup despite foot pain. But he was clearly limited, and there was no reason to play him more than the 14 minutes he got with the game never in doubt after halftime.

The sellout crowd of 17,732 was roaring long before Nets reserve Jerry Stackhouse, who wears the No. 42 that Jackie Robinson once sported in Brooklyn, sang the national anthem.

Owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who spent hundreds of millions on player contracts last summer expecting a longtime loser in New Jersey to win big in Brooklyn, came on the court to thank fans for their passion and support, telling them that this playoff appearance was only the beginning.

And what a beginning it was.

Williams even had a reverse dunk in the third quarter, showing how much better he feels after ankle pain had him playing well below his usual level before the All-Star break, when he could barely jump.

Gerald Wallace and C.J. Watson each scored 14 for the Nets, while Andray Blatche had 12.

Noah has battled plantar fasciitis in his right foot and Thibodeau said he didn't want his All-Star centre playing if he was injured. But Noah, who grew up in New York, wanted to give it a try. He finished with four points.

"The thing is he hasn't practiced so he's going to be rusty, but I'd rather have him out there. Whatever he can give us is a plus," Thibodeau said. "We didn't play well. It wasn't Jo, it was our team. So he's a big plus for our team, so we'd like to have him out there. We've got to play better. Everyone has to play better."

The Bulls are still without Derrick Rose, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in last year's playoff opener. Thibodeau hasn't ruled out the former MVP returning in this series, noting the end would be two weeks from Saturday if it went the distance.

That looked unlikely after Game 1.

Chicago won three of four during the regular season, holding the Nets to 87.5 points per game, but Brooklyn had 89 after the third quarter of this one.

Fans chanted "Brooklyn! Brooklyn!" before the tip and chanted Wallace's name during it, recognizing his strong performance after a difficult regular season.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 21, 2013 B7

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