As Deron Williams stood at the free-throw line with 48 seconds left and the Nets about to seal the deal Saturday night, many in the Barclays Center sellout crowd of 17,732 started a "Br-o-o-k-lyn! Br-o-o-k-lyn!" chant, showing off that borough pride.
A night that began with the lowering of their new mascot onto the court from high above the floor, unveiling the guy they call BrooklyKnight, ended just the way the Nets had hoped for: with a victory.
They had talked about protecting their home turf and making their $1-billion arena one of the toughest places to visit in the league. So at the very least, they started things off the right way with a 107-100 win over Toronto.
"It was a great night," said Williams (19 points, nine assists). "It was a great night capped off by a win, which is what we want."
But it wasn't easy. The Nets led 84-78 going into the fourth quarter and found themselves in a dogfight.
C.J. Watson's runner with two minutes left pushed the lead to 96-92, and Gerald Wallace -- who took a hard spill in the closing seconds, sprained his left ankle and went for X-rays, which were negative -- hit a free throw for a five-point edge.
Kyle Lowry's three-pointer brought the Raptors within 97-95, but a traditional three-point play by Brook Lopez (27 points) with 59.4 seconds left provided a 100-95 bulge as the Nets won the first professional sports event in Kings County since the Dodgers bolted for Los Angeles after the 1957 season.
It wasn't until the second quarter that the Nets took control. They climbed out of a 10-point deficit with the help of their bench, showing why they feel they're so deep. Avery Johnson put a lineup of Watson, Joe Johnson, MarShon Brooks, Reggie Evans and Andray Blatche on the court and they immediately started chipping away with some scrappy play.
Watson ignited the Nets with his uptempo style and ability to shoot from the perimeter, and his fast-break jumper gave them the lead for good at 48-46. Watson, signed as a free agent for the league minimum, had 13 of his 15 points in the first half, helping the Nets outscore the Raptors 33-17 in the second quarter and grab a 60-52 halftime lead.
"I just took the shots that were given to me, open shots. I made the shots," he said. "I just tried to be aggressive and had a couple of silly turnovers when I first came in, but I just tried to go out there and be aggressive and pick my spots."
Lopez asserted himself early and was very active inside. He scored 14 points in the first half, shooting 4-for-7 from the field and 6-for-10 from the line.
Johnson had 14 points in his Nets debut, although he shot only 5-for-13. "I had a lot of jitters coming into this game," he said. "Maybe in this game, I was moving too fast . . . I was just anxious. I just wanted to put on a good show for Brooklyn, and I think everybody can say that. The most important thing out of this was we wanted to win this first game, and we did."
"This was such a huge night," Avery Johnson said, "and if I give you a list of reasons why it was such a huge night, we'd probably be here for a while. We're in Brooklyn now and it's a big difference . . . Not only did we have a sellout, they were into the game. It's really, really special.
"I'm just honored to be a part of it. When you go back and look at history in this game, I'm glad I was one of the pieces that was a part of this."