Anderson Varejao played the game of his life. He had 17 points in the first quarter. He finished with 35 points on 16-of-21 shooting and 18 rebounds (11 offensive) to the delight of fantasy owners (such as myself).
Kyrie Irving was electric. He poured in 34 points to go with eight assists and three steals, eliciting some oohs and aahs from the crowd in the process.
But two players do not a team make, and—aside from a decent game by Tristan Thompson—the other Cavs never really showed up. They were down by 22 at halftime.
Cleveland briefly pulled within 10 at the end of the third quarter, but the Nets still cruised to a 114-101 victory.
The Nets looked strong on offense. Deron Williams led the way with 26 points and 10 assists. Joe Johnson finally showed his max-contract skill by scoring 25 points on 9-of-16 shooting and adding six assists.
Brook Lopez had 23 points and somehow outrebounded Kris Humphries (seven to six).
Andray Blatche was strong off the bench with 13 points and three blocks in 19 minutes. Reggie Evans grabbed eight boards and Jerry Stackhouse looked good too.
The Nets' interior defense was pretty atrocious, as evidenced by Varejao's epic performance, although Lopez somehow managed to accrue four blocks. In the end, the Nets 54.5 percent shooting from the field was too much for the Cavs to handle.
But what about the arena, you ask? Well, let me tell you.
Our tickets were purchased off the secondary market in a block of six for just more than $20 per ticket. That and $100 will get you into Madison Square Garden.
Barclays Center is easily accessible by one of nine subway lines or the LIRR. Unfortunately, the R train is still out of service in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. Two more subway lines are within walking distance.
Of course, that many trains can get a bit crowded. The Q train deposits you deep underground, somewhere near the Earth's mantle.
After a prolonged ascent to the surface, the train complex opens onto main plaza of Barclays Center which features a gigantic, looming, eye-catching, double-helixesque video screen.
After waiting for a couple of minutes in the nearest line, we were informed that those doors are not an entrance but only the box office.
We were instructed to walk to the other side of the building and conveniently passed the team store, which is more monochromatic than a black and white documentary on zebras.
Despite the fact that Jay-Z owns just one-fifteenth of one percent of the team, there is a Rocawear store next to the team store, and I'm told there is a 40/40 Club somewhere inside (far, far away from our nosebleed seats).
There was very thorough security with a bag search and metal detector wand and a slightly confusing logjam at the entrance, all of which lends the nice impression that you're about to fly somewhere.
There was very friendly and enthusiastic staff everywhere and the hiring manager obviously leaned towards over-staffing.
The escalator to the upper level goes by the suite level, which showcased the big pimpin' buffet that one could dine upon if blessed with some sort of very lucrative job.
When we arrived at our 200-level sideline section, we found comfy, high-backed, cushioned seats emblazoned with a Metro PCS logo. The sideline sections are much higher up than those on the baseline. You are actually above scoreboard and feel like a gaffer on one of the surrounding catwalks
The rows are very steep and border on inducing vertigo. The rows are also quite narrow, forcing each fan to stand, suck in their gut and tuck their arms at their sides to let someone else by.
There are cup holders on the floor of the aisle in front of each seat, and the seat backs of the next row are ankle high. With 20 seats to a row it makes for a lot of precarious shuffling.
These nosebleed seats on the sideline actually afford a very good view of the court, but you are more likely to suffer the nosebleed from falling over several rows while carrying food and drinks and trying to edge back to your seat without tripping over the cup holders.
So those are the seats, but the real subliminal lure of attending a sporting event is gorging on overpriced concessions.
Our section was situated right next to the tastefully named "Spumoni Gardens," which boasted that "local vendors bring their Brooklyn flavor to Barclays Center."
Beware that the Baked in Brooklyn Everything Flatbread is actually a bag of chips. Try the decadent sounding (and unfortunately named) Stinky Brown Butter Rice Krispy Treat for $6, if you dare.
Beer prices are reasonable (for New York) and the selection is decent. You can get a fairly large cup of Budweiser or Bud Light for $9.50. Imports come in one size and seem to be only Heineken for $9.
A separate stand was selling Brooklyn Lager, of course, but I did not see cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon, so local hipsters may be rankled.
Red Bull is $7. "Starbucks" or soda (non-souvenir cup) are $4, but if you want to splurge on a water you'll have to shell out $4.50.
There was a Nathan's outlet which I can confirm cooked up a very tasty and plump hot dog. The "knife and fork dog" is probably excessive. The condiment stand had ketchup and mustard and six serving trays, but only four were in use, and these provided only relish and diced raw onion.
There are many points of sale to slake your hunger and thirst (the team boasts 37 local vendors), but expect a very long line at Brooklyn Burger, even with two minutes left in the half.
Bear in mind that you did buy tickets to a basketball game. But you can watch it on TV while waiting in line, if you choose.
Some other quick-hitting observations:
- The retired numbers banners are the same as they were at Prudential Center (and Izod Center, and Continental Airlines Arena and Brendan Byrne Arena), but the league and conference championship banners are now black and white.
- The alluring and homophonic Brooklynettes performed a dance while armed with nunchucks. They can also be hired for events.
- One fan won a fridge (it was not immediately presented to her), and a lucky young boy was awarded a $100 gift certificate to a supermarket for winning a shooting competition.
- CC Sabathia was courtside and got a nice ovation. Eddie Murray (who also received hearty applause for his two years on the Mets) and Jimmy Fallon were in attendance, although strangely, they couldn't score courtside tickets.
- The bathrooms were very clean and well-stocked, but there's only one entryway which is also the exit.
- In-game stats are not clearly available, except on two smaller scoreboards on a wall at each end of the arena, and these can't be seen from most upper sideline seats.
- The out of town scoreboard shows only one game at a time and does not list the time remaining, only the quarter.
- The vendors made regular visits to our section, which was convenient once we were bunkered in our seats.
The slightly ridiculous BrooklyKnight also made an appearance in our section (although he had not shot the t-shirt cannon up to us). The team mascot, which was developed in conjunction with Marvel, also has his own comic book which was distributed on opening night.
Clearly, the franchise is fond of incorporating the word "Brooklyn" into everything associated with the team. They also operate on the delicate precipice of carrying themselves like a brand new expansion franchise.
At the first game, the Nets distributed t-shirts with the slogan, "Fan Since Day One." I wonder what any of the New Jersey Nets season-ticket holders thought of that.
But all in all, Barclays Center is a very nice place to take in a game. My commute from Jersey City to the arena is far less convenient than it was to Prudential Center, but I suspect that most fans prefer the new arrangement.
And the roster has a tremendous amount of quality. Aside from the known talent of the megabucks players, the bench has depth and toughness.
This particular game was not a wholesale success. Benjamin Hoffman of the New York Times identified some of the team's weaknesses after the victory over Cleveland.
The good news for the Nets is that Avery Johnson has plenty of time to work on correcting the weaknesses, and he has plenty of offense to bolster their play in the meantime.
And the good news for New York basketball fans is that you can go watch a professional basketball game for less than your monthly smartphone bill.
Go and cheer for the Nets. If you're not a fan of the team, then cheer for the opponent or cheer for your fantasy team. You will have a good time.
After all, you can't enjoy a Stinky Brown Butter Rice Krispy Treat at MSG.
Note: all photos were taken by the author unless otherwise indicated.
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