NEW YORK — With 32 seconds left to play, and the Brooklyn Nets leading the Washington Wizards by 10 points, the announced crowd of 14,219 came to their feet and gave the players a standing ovation. It continued through the final buzzer, a 98-88 win for the Nets.
It was an unusual moment for a preseason game. Then again, it wasn’t a normal preseason game. It was the Nets’ first game in Brooklyn and in their new arena, the Barclays Center, and the fans made it an event.
In the midst of the celebration surrounding Brooklyn’s new team, the Wizards simply came to play a basketball game. With an injury-depleted roster that was missing John Wall, Nene, Trevor Booker, Kevin Seraphin and Chris Singleton, Wizards coach Randy Wittman made the best of a bad situation.
“We’re playing a little undermanned right now, but we’re stepping up and battling,” Wittman said. “We still have four more games. Hopefully we’ll get a couple more people back and we can see more combinations. That’s what you do in the preseason, you get a feel for what guys can do in what situations.”
One combination Wittman likes so far is Martell Webster and Bradley Beal in the backcourt. Webster led the Wizards with 18 points and went 10 for 10 from the foul line. Beal, in his second start, scored 13 points and held his own defensively against the Nets' six-time All-Star Joe Johnson. At least in the first half.
“First half I did good. Second half, not so good,” Beal said. “He got the best of me in the second half. Posted me up a few times. Of course, I have to get stronger. [There’s] going to be plenty of guys that’s going to do that to me, like D-Wade and Kobe. So, it’s just the beginning.”
Johnson scored 14 points on 6 of 13 shooting. Also turning in a strong performance for the Nets was former Wizard Andray Blatche, who came off the bench to score 16 points and pulled down eight rebounds.
Asked about Blatche’s performance, Wittman said simply, “Yeah, we’ve seen that before.”
It was also the first game back in the lineup for Wizards center Emeka Okafor, who was due to start on Thursday at Verizon Center against the Knicks but came down with a case of food poisoning. In what will someday become the answer to a trivia question, it was Okafor who scored the first-ever basket at the Barclays Center.
“That’s pretty cool,” Okafor said. “If it’s written and it goes down in a book, it probably won’t count since it’s preseason.”
Okafor finished with 12 points and six rebounds, but went 0 for 4 from the free throw line.
“I was able to stretch my legs out, get a game feel,” Okafor said. “I know it’s cliché, but it was one game at a time, literally. This is my first preseason game and I have four more to get it going before the season starts.”
The loss drops the Wizards to 1-3 in the preseason with games still to play against Toronto, Milwaukee, Miami and San Antonio before the regular season begins.
“I think we show glimpses of what this team is trying to become,” Webster said. “We really feel like we executed the game plan. We just didn’t get the win.”
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