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Russell comes up clutch as Nets win home opener, 126-121

NBA: Orlando Magic at Brooklyn Nets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Brooklyn has swagger… and it’s fun.

Step up: the two words we’ve heard so much since Jeremy Lin went down… and that’s exactly what the Nets did Friday night.

Behind a balanced attack and strong finish from both Spencer Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell, the Nets notched their first victory against the Orlando Magic, 126-121 in the home opener at Barclays Center. The Nets are now 5-1 in home openers since moving to Brooklyn.

“We wanted it more. We knew we had to make up for that loss at Indiana. We came out ready,” Trevor Booker said after the game. He finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds in 22 minutes.

D’Angelo Russell didn’t have his best game early, adjusting to the full-time point guard role in a new system. He turned the ball over five times in the first half — eight on the night. So, Kenny Atkinson subbed him out in the third quarter of a close game.

Enter Spencer Dinwiddie.

Dinwiddie came in and controlled the tempo, finishing with a line of 16 points, five rebounds and five assists. Talk about players that need to step up...

The third-year guard also showed chemistry with Jarrett Allen, who logged 15 minutes and scored nine points. Allen showed great poise in the pick-and-roll and looked like a legitimate rim protector with his near 7’6” wingspan.

Dinwiddie and Allen held the fort with Russell on the bench for 12 straight minutes.

Then, with under five minutes left, Russell re-entered in the game and as Ian Eagle said, came up with some on-court wizardry. The Nets were up by one with 1:23 left. Russell hit a tricky shot plus the foul. The Brooklyn crowd was off its feet as Russell walked to center court and pointed at his wrist.

Maybe it isn’t “ice in my veins“ anymore. He was signaling “The time is now,” he told NetsDaily after the game., or as his newest tattoo reads, “N:ow.”

This is a team-oriented culture but there is no doubt this is D’Angelo’s team.

The Nets went on to win the game down the stretch, sealing the game at the line. Evan Fournier had a chance to tie the game as time trickled down, but missed the shot. Trevor Booker sealed the deal at the line.

“We are a young group. Finishing games in this league is definitely hard. Guys have to make shots when they need to. This is where amazing happens,” Russell said.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson played with a purpose and finished with a line of 15 points, three steals and three blocked shots. DeMarre Carroll finished with 17 points, eight assists and two steals, looking very much like the DeMarre Carroll that sparked Atlanta three years ago. Meanwhile, Joe Harris got back in the lineup and scored 10 points, including a couple of clutch three’s ... and as Kenny Atkinson noted, played good defense as well.

More depth and more guys stepping up.

However, once again, the Nets were dominated down low, this time by Nikola Vucevic, who nailed six three-pointers and finished with a career-high 41 points and 12 rebounds. He, like other bigs in preseason and vs. Indiana, exploited Brooklyn’s biggest problem, its lack of bigs. Orlando as whole finished with 60 points in the paint.

"They have maybe their best player out, out too, so we can’t blane that on injuries," Vucevic said regarding Aaron Gordon being absent. Then, Eldridge Payton left the game at halftime with a hamstring injury.

It was a good night at Barclays as the crowd loudly chanted, “Brooo-klynnn!” throughout the night. Nobody knows where this team will end up, but they’re fun to root for.


“It felt great. The atmosphere was amazing. We are going to need that from the fan every home game. It just felt good to get one,” Russell said about the home crowd after.

"It was crazy. Fans were excited, loud. I didn't expect to see that many fans. We gotta play hard and not let them down,” Carroll added.

Next up: Atlanta on Sunday at 3:30 pm.