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New Jersey Nets beat Toronto to win London NBA game

By Rob Dugdale
BBC Sport at the O2 Arena

Travis Outlas of the New Jersey Nets drives against the Toronto Raptors in London
The Nets trailed 51-47 at half-time before winning

The New Jersey Nets won the first-ever NBA regular season game played in Europe when they defeated the Toronto Raptors 116-103 at London's O2 Arena.

Brook Lopez led New Jersey's scoring with 25 points and Kris Humphries added 18, while newly signed guard Deron Williams had 16 points and 11 assists.

The Nets drew away in the fourth quarter from the Raptors, who were led by DeMar DeRozan's 30 points.

The two sides will meet again at the O2 on Saturday night.

The teams stand 13th and 14th in the Eastern Conference standings and have little or no chance of reaching this year's play-offs, which start in April.

This weekend's games therefore offer them a chance to at least leave a mark on the season.

The up-tempo start to the game engaged the crowd and a DeRozan dunk on the break for Toronto brought the first big cheer of the night from the London fans.

It's great playing over here and being one of the few teams to experience this

New Jersey's Kris Humphries

The game was accompanied by a typical NBA entertainment package, including half-time classical music from Escala and the usual chance to celebrity-spot the likes of footballer Didier Drogba, cricketers Monty Panesar and Steven Finn and TV presenter Adrian Chiles.

The fact that this was a regular-season game also added an intensity to the play that had been lacking in October's LA Lakers-Minnesota pre-season meeting.

In the fourth quarter, an off-the-ball spat between Lopez and Toronto's James Johnson suggested the game was being taken seriously enough.

Williams, who played at the O2 two years ago for his previous club, Utah, is hoping to be back next year with Team USA when the arena hosts the final rounds of the Olympic tournament.

Traded at the end of February, Williams is now the Nets' best asset and his value to the franchise was obvious in the early minutes as he embarked on a point-guard masterclass.

He repeatedly created opportunities for Lopez and Humphries and also produced a tough drive down the lane of his own for a basket.

Nets coach Avery Johnson had told reporters that he was prepared to take drastic measures to get the best out of his new playmaker.

"A lot of the plays we had didn't fit his skill level so they're in the trash can and we kept in the plays that fit his game," he said.

"We've added quite a few plays that he was comfortable with in Utah, so now the rest of the guys have to get on board with his situation."

We're a young team and our margin for error is small so we're going to need more of our people to step up

Raptors coach Jay Triano

With the second-string players on the floor, however, New Jersey struggled and Toronto started the second period with a 10-0 run to take a 33-27 lead.

Their speed on the break - exemplified by lightning-quick Brazil international Leandro Barbosa - was a crucial factor in them holding on to lead 51-47 at half-time despite Williams and Lopez returning to spark New Jersey.

The Nets were back in front almost immediately after the break, with Williams hitting a three, feeding Damion Jones for a two and then driving uncontested for a dunk.

Toronto's response was two threes from Italy's Andrea Bargnani, who finished with 23 points, as they re-took the lead 77-74.

Both teams had contributions from bench players at the start of the fourth quarter as the starters were rested for the finale.

But New Jersey's supporting cast proved the stronger, with Jordan Farmar, Johan Petro and Travis Outlaw establishing the game's first 10-point lead with a 17-3 run before Williams and Lopez returned to the game.

Still Toronto were not finished and DeRozan hit two baskets as the Raptors hauled themselves back to within five points. Williams again produced a drive and a three to steady the Nets.

A long jumpshot for two from Lopez with one minute 46 seconds remaining gave the Nets a 110-97 lead and ended the game as a contest, giving Williams a first win in his four games since signing for New Jersey.

Humphries, who scored 18 points and took 17 rebounds for the Nets, praised the team's bench players.

"We just had contributions from our bench and we need that if we're going to take the team to another level."

Although the Nets were nominally the home team, Humphries noticed that the majority of the crowd seemed to be shouting for Toronto.

"I thought we were supposed to be the home team so I had some mixed feelings out there about that," he said.

"Hopefully in the next game we'll get some more love. It's great playing over here and being one of the few teams to experience this."

Raptors coach Jay Triano told reporters that Williams had "taken over a little" in the second half and said he would be looking for a better effort on Saturday.

"We're a young team and our margin for error is small so we're going to need more of our people to step up," he said.



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see also
Basketball boss upbeat on GB bid
04 Mar 11 |  Basketball
NBA stars to play in Manchester
28 Feb 11 |  Basketball


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