Avery Johnson wasn't going to take a chance on losing this one, not with a lengthy buildup to the Nets' first game in their $1-billion new digs.
So Johnson opted for a different strategy than he employed in Saturday's preseason opener, when he kept his starters on the bench for the bulk of the fourth quarter, only to see the 76ers storm back from a double-digit deficit and send the game into overtime.
With the Nets barely holding on in the fourth quarter of their preseason home opener, Johnson reinserted star point guard Deron Williams with about three minutes remaining so he could help preserve a 98-88 win over the Wizards Monday night before a crowd of 14,219 at the Barclays Center.
"I just thought it was important," Johnson said. "Our fans were terrific, oh my gosh. When we get even more people in the building, it's going to be crazy. So we thought it was nice that our fans would go home with a nice feeling about our team."
Williams played nearly 32 minutes and Joe Johnson probably needed an ice bath with all the minutes he logged. Johnson was on the floor for 37:31, finishing with 14 points and five assists. He was extremely effective in helping to run the second unit, which is the plan once the regular season starts, and knew what his coach was up to by keeping him in the game for so long.
"I could kind of sense it and it's understandable," Joe Johnson said. "It's our first game here and we wanted to give the fans a 'W.' Guys came out ready to play."
Williams strolled into the arena for the game just after 5 p.m., and he needed help learning how to navigate his way from the parking lot underneath the arena to the Nets' spacious locker room. Minutes later, Gerald Wallace tried to find the family room and instead ended up by the media room.
It's going to take a while for the Nets to get comfortable in their new environment, but they'll surely take it after playing before sparse crowds in New Jersey arenas that were built for hockey.
"It was great," Williams said. "I thought the crowd was great, especially for a preseason game. I think there was a lot of excitement from us as players being here. But all in all, it was another good game we can take a lot of things from, good and bad."
There certainly wasn't anything bad about the way the fans showered them with love and chants in their first up-close glimpse at these new-look Nets.
"It was crazy, a good crazy," Joe Johnson said. "I expected the fans to come out in the preseason and show some love and support, and they are just as excited as we are. So I'm glad they came out. It felt like a regular-season game. So we know it's going to be a hostile environment for other teams to come in."