Brooklyn’s 114-111 victory represented a brief respite from a tumultuous week for the NBA in China.
And then there was basketball.
The Nets and Lakers took to the floor Thursday night in Shanghai, bringing the NBA to life with all the trappings of a U.S. game for a capacity crowd of some 18,000 at Mercedes-Benz Arena.
Spencer Dinwiddie scored 20 points and Taurean Prince added 18 to lead six Nets in double figures as Brooklyn overcame the LeBron James-led Lakers, 114-111.
James scored 20 points in 24 minutes to pace Los Angeles, as he and newly acquired Anthony Davis (16 points in 25 minutes) shared the floor at teammates for the first time.
Brooklyn’s Theo Pinson broke a tie at 111 with 20.9 seconds to play by hitting the second of two free throws, and Dzanan Musa’s dunk with 9.0 seconds to play capped the scoring. The Lakers had a last shot to tie on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s 3-pointer as the clock wound down, but it bounced high off back iron.
As players left the floor, they threw sweatbands into a crowd that had eagerly snapped pictures of players before, during and after a game that represented a brief respite from a tumultuous week for the NBA in China.
Still, the contest wasn’t without some fallout from the week’s controversy stemming from a since-deleted tweet by Rockets GM Daryl Morey supporting anti-government protesters in Hong Kong that overshadowed what had been expected to be a celebration of the NBA in one of its key international markets.
Some 3½ hours before tipoff, an NBA spokesman informed reporters in Shanghai that there would be no media availability of any kind for either team and that commissioner Adam Silver’s previously scheduled pregame press conference was canceled.
The stipulation, unidentified sources told ESPN, was at the behest of the Chinese government, which had canceled multiple NBA-related events in the days leading up to the first of two preseason games in the country, leaving some concerned that the games themselves would be canceled.
An NBA official told ESPN he was unsure if the same media ban would be in place then when the Nets and Lakers travel to Shenzhen to play Saturday.
If there are any lingering aftereffects from Thursday’s game, it might be on the injury front.
Nets guard Kyrie Irving left the game slightly more than a minute after tipoff after being hit in the face.
Trying to play through a facial fracture suffered in a pickup game last month, Irving was wearing a clear protective mask but appeared to bump into Lakers guard Rajon Rondo while playing defense just 1:06 into the game, according to multiple reports.
The Nets guard immediately grimaced in pain, took off the mask off and motioned to the Nets bench that he needed to come out. The team soon ruled him out for the rest of the game.
Nets swingman Caris LeVert also sustained a scratched eye in the game’s first minute as well and didn’t return.