Saturday, January 5, 2013

Hello Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Nets had been having a tumultuous start to the 2012-13 NBA season when they descended upon the Verizon Center to take on the Washington Wizards. Brooklyn, who has the second highest payroll in the league, got off to a torrid start, winning 11 of their first 15 games, but took a nosedive ending up at 14-14 after their next 13, resulting in the firing of head coach Avery Johnson. Since then, interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo, famously involved in the Latrell Sprewell choking incident of 1997, had steered the Nets to a 3-1 record since Johnson's departure. The Nets were coming off a big win against the last team Carlesimo coached, the Oklahoma City Thunder, and were looking to stay hot against the 4-26 Wizards.

I arrived at the Verizon Center administrative entrance at 4:30 P.M. but was told to wait patiently in the lobby. Apparently the green stickers that would serve as my credentials were yet to have been made, or delivered to the front desk. Finally, after a half-hour wait, during which I watched a fight breakout at a McDonald's next door to the Verizon Center, I went into the arena and headed for the lower bowl, where I had been chased out of  before the last game against Dallas. Instead of making myself too conspicuous by going all the way to the floor seats, I made myself comfortable at the top of the lower level, and took some shots of players warming up with a zoom lens, before heading to the second floor, and then the fourth floor to do the same type of zoom shooting. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I could get quality shots with the zoom lens from a distance that were just as impressive as the photos I had been taking with a regular lens from up close.

After picking up my work camera from the office, I returned to the lower bowl to take fan pictures and was immediately surprised by the number of Brooklyn fans that had turned out. If I had to guess, the arena was at least 40% Nets fans. I figured it probably didn't help the Wizards cause, on this night, that there were so many away fans in the building and a majority of the D.C. fans were more focused on the Washington Redskins upcoming playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. In fact, people had been so captivated by the Redskins in D.C. that after recent Wizards home games, tonight included, fans had left the Verizon Center chanting RGIII!, RGIII!, RGIII!, hailing the rookie QB Robert Griffin III, who has rejuvenated the football team, and guided them to their first NFC East title since 1999.

I was able to shoot my way to 120 shots before the game started, and was at 200 by the half. I was informed by my supervisor that I should avoid drinking alcoholic beverages during the game,as he had just spotted one of my fellow fan photographers boozing it up at the Dewar's club level bar. Booze or no booze, I was on a roll with the pictures, and towards the end of the 4th quarter had eclipsed 300 shots en route to 345 pictures for the night, which was good enough to take off and watch the end of the game from the top of the lower bowl behind the Wizards basket.

Wizards guard Martell Webster goes to the foul line

Martell Webster takes a free throw
I joined the action with 7 seconds left in regulation to see Deron Williams make a beautiful feed to Gerald Wallace, who missed the layup, which was followed with a put back dunk by Brook Lopez to give Brooklyn a 93-91 lead with 3.2 seconds left on the clock. On the ensuing possession, Wizards guard Garrett Temple in-bounded the ball to Nene, who converted a sweeping hook shot over Lopez with less than a second left, making the building erupt in jubilation.

Wizards guard Jordan Crawford works the pick and roll with forward Nene
Jordan Crawford is defended by Nets guard Keith Bogans

Nene sets the screen for Crawford 
In the first overtime period, the Wizards had a commanding 99-93 lead with 2:35 left to go. Later, the Nets would pull to within 1 off a Deron Williams layup with 26 seconds left, before finally taking the lead on a pair of Brook Lopez free throws. Down by 3 with 3 seconds left in the first overtime, Jordan Crawford in-bounded the ball to the rookie Bradley Beal who stroked a long range bomb from downtown at the buzzer to send the game to a double overtime.

Wizards rookie guard Bradley Beal...

...dribbles around a screen from center Emeka Okafor
In the second OT, the Wizards found themselves down 113-111 with 9 seconds left, but Beal was able draw a shooting foul on Andray Blatche, hitting both free throws to tie it up. On the next possession, the Nets put the ball in the hands of their top shooter, Joe Johnson. With 4 seconds left on the clock, Johnson started crossing over in front of Bradley Beal, and then finally with 0.7 seconds left, drained the game winner over Beal and the outstretched arms of a lunging Martell Webster. The Wizards would have one last chance, as Garrett Temple in-bounded to Jordan Crawford, who jacked up an air-ball from beyond the arc, sending Washington to their 27th loss of the season, and earning the Nets their 4th win in the P.J. Carlesimo era.

Bradley Beal gets ready to shoot two free throws with 9 seconds left  in double OT and the Wizards down 113-111

Beal ties the game at 113

Brook Lopez led the Nets with 27 points and 13 rebounds. Deron Williams was also solid, chipping in 24 points and 10 assists, while former Wizard Andray Blatche had a double-double off the bench with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 24 points on 10-19 shooting from the field. Jordan Crawford contributed 23 points off the bench, 12 of them coming from downtown.