It was a historic day for the NBA in London on Friday as Johan Petro and his New Jersey Nets teammates took part in the first ever regular season game played overseas.
But after a 116-103 win over the Toronto Raptors, the day meant even more to New Jersey.
"It's going to go down in history. The first of everything is always good and we're glad to be a part of it," said coach Avery Johnson, whose team also traveled to Russia and China in the preseason. "We understand the whole globalization of the game. We know we're a different kind of team, especially with our owner, Mikhail Prokhorov."
With their victory, the Nets broke a six-game losing streak, which dated back to February 11th. It was their first win since the trade deadline acquisition of All-Star point guard Deron Williams.
After a quiet start to the game, Johan played a role in the fourth quarter rally that helped the Nets put the game away for good.
New Jersey entered the fourth trailing by three, but a pair of triples early in the quarter by Jordan Farmar pushed them to an 84-83 lead. The second three also set off a 17-4 run by the Nets bench that yanked the game from Toronto's grasp.
"We just had contributions from our bench and we need that if we're going to take the team to another level," Nets forward Kris Humphries told the Associated Press.
During the run, No. 27 scored his only three points and grabbed all three of his rebounds. His first board came on the defensive glass and led to a transition bucket by Damion James to put New Jersey up by seven, 91-84. After a three-point play by Toronto's Andrea Bargnani cut into the lead, the Nets followed with eight unanswered points to go ahead by double digits.
Sandwiched in that mini run was an all-out effort play by Johan. Following a Bargnani miss, JP pulled down a defensive board on one end, then hustled to the other end. After gaining position in the post, No. 27 rebounded a Jordan Farmar miss, put it back in for two and drew a foul. His subsequent free throw gave the Nets a 96-87 lead and they cruised from there to victory.
"[The bench was] huge for us in the second half," center Brook Lopez told the AP. "They gave us a huge lift, pretty much blew open the game for us."
It was the second time in three games that Johan has stepped up on the glass. In a loss to the Rockets last Saturday, the big man tallied six rebounds in just seven minutes, including three off the offensive backboard.
The win, New Jersey's 18th of the season, wrapped a whirlwind eight-day span for the Nets, which began with the trade for Williams, the franchise's new centerpiece, last Thursday.
"Happy with my first win as a Net," Williams said. "We had a lot of energy today. We were all a little worried about how the trip would affect us, fatigue would set in. But we had a lot of energy. We had definitely some bright spots, some guys played great for us tonight."
Lopez added that the entire team is coming together well as a unit.
"Our chemistry grows every game by the boatload," he said.
Johan and the Nets will look for a European sweep today as they wrap the two-game London trip this afternoon against the Raptors.
Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m. EST and the game can be seen on NBA TV and YES Network.