The New Jersey Nets ended the NBA's longest season-opening losing run on Friday, clinching their first win after 18 defeats to beat the Charlotte Bobcats 97-91. The Nets scored nine successive points after the game was tied 86-86 with 2mins 22secs remaining to set up the victory and give the home crowd something to cheer about after five weeks of losing.
The crowd gave the 1-18 Nets a standing ovation at the final buzzer as the players celebrated on court. "You know what felt good, was how hard our guys played," said the interim coach Kiki Vandeweghe, the Nets general manager who was making his debut on the bench. "This was a team win. I was very pleased with the effort." The centre Brook Lopez led the Nets with 31 points and 14 rebounds, while guard Courtney Lee contributed 27 points. Stephen Jackson and Raymond Felton both scored 28 points for the Bobcats.
Charlotte suffered from a poor percentage from the free-throw line, making just 18 of 30, while New Jersey scored 24 of 29. Lee put New Jersey on their way with a pair of free throws that put them up 88-86. Lee then stole the ball from Boris Diaw and streaked down the floor for a slam dunk. Guard Devin Harris was fouled by Felton while attempting a three-pointer and made all three free throws to make it 93-86. Lopez then converted two more free throws on a fast break following a turnover to give a 95-86 cushion.
Meanwhile, the Boston Celtics extended their winning streak to seven games with a 105-87 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Kevin Garnett scored 23 points for the Celtics, who never looked back after establishing a 31-20 lead at the end of the first quarter. Hedo Turkoglu netted with 8.1 seconds left in overtime to give Toronto a 109-107 victory over the Washington Wizards which ended a five-game run of defeats.
Cleveland won for the 11th time in 13 games, defeating the Chicago Bulls 101-87 on the back of 23 points from LeBron James, while the New Orleans Hornets beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 98-89. Carlos Boozer scored a season-high 35 points to lead the Utah Jazz to their fourth win in a row, 96-87 over the Indiana Pacers. The New York Knicks edged out the Atlanta Hawks 114-107, while the Memphis Grizzlies saw off the Dallas Mavericks 98-82.
Rodney Stuckey scored 19 points as the Detroit Pistons beat the Milwaukee Bucks 105-96, and Kobe Bryant netted 33 points for the Los Angeles Lakers as they beat the Miami Heat 108-107. * Reuters