ATLANTIC CITY — A video game came to life for 15-year-old George Tazewell and his friends Saturday night.
Tazewell was among the 6,887 fans at Boardwalk Hall who watched the Brooklyn Nets beat the Philadelphia 76ers 108-105 in overtime in a preseason game. Center Andre Blatche sank a 16-foot jumper with 27.1 seconds left in overtime to give the Nets a one-point lead they never relinquished.
“Usually, I’m playing NBA 2K13 watching (NBA players),” Tazewell, an Atlantic City resident, said. “Now, I’m here in person.”
Saturday’s game — billed as the Boardwalk Classic — was Philadelphia’s first appearance in Atlantic City since Oct. 8, 1983 when it beat the then-New Jersey Nets 117-113 in a preseason game.
Tazewell watched the pregame warmups with fellow Atlantic City residents Rahshamil Skinner, 13, and 15-year-olds Juan Sanchez and D’Eandre Johnson. The four got tickets through the Atlantic City school system.
“I can’t believe it,” Skinner said. “This is my first NBA game.”
The entire crowd seemed to share Skinner’s enthusiasm.
Fans reacted to almost every possession. They chanted defense and stomped their feet as the 76ers rallied from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter to force overtime.
They roared as 76ers Maalik Wayns and Nick Young sparked the comeback by sinking back-to-back 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.
They groaned when Young’s potential winning jumper with four seconds left rolled in and out of the hoop. Most of the crowd stood in the final minutes of regulation.
“I always love coming down to Atlantic City,” 76ers coach Doug Collins said. “The good part about me is that I’m not a gambler. I can walk through the casino, enjoy it and watch other people.”
As for the game, the 76ers played without 7-foot center Andrew Bynum, their prime offseason acquisition. The 76ers acquired Bynum from the Los Angeles Lakers in a four-team trade during the summer. But Bynum, who is sidelined by a knee bruise, sat on the end of the bench in street clothes Saturday.
“Had Andrew played (Saturday) it probably would have been sellout,” Collins said.
The 76ers also rested key players Jason Richardson and Dorell Wright.
It was also the debut of the new look Brooklyn Nets, who had spent the last 35 years playing as the New Jersey Nets.
Philadelphia never led in regulation. The 76ers trailed by 10 with four minutes left in the fourth quarter. The 76ers closed the quarter with a 12-2 run to force overtime. Reserve guards Wayns (18 points) and Young (21 points) keyed the comeback.
“Coach has the confidence to put me in situations like that, and I’m getting more and more comfortable,” said Wayns, a rookie out of Villanova.
Wayns gave the 76ers their first lead when he sank a 3-pointer to put Philadelphia ahead 98-97 with 4:27 left in overtime.
But the 76ers couldn’t hold the lead. Philadelphia had two chances at the win in the final 10 seconds of overtime, however. Young’s 16-foot jumper off the dribble rolled in and out with 9.5 seconds left. A desperation 3-pointer by Young bounced off the rim as the final buzzer sounded.
The 76ers’ comeback occurred with both teams’ starters on the bench. The Nets dominated the game with the starters on the court. Brooklyn behind point guard Deron Williams (14 points) and center Brook Lopez (19 points, nine rebounds) scored 30 points in the first quarter and led by as many as 17 in the third.
Evan Turner led the 76ers’ starters with 14 points and seven rebounds. Philadelphia is a dramatically different team from last season as veterans Elton Brand, Lou Williams and Andre Iguodala are all gone.
The preseason is a time for learning for the new members of the team and Collins saw one primary thing the 76ers need to improve on.
“I think this is something we can build on,” he said, “but we need to get in better shape. We need to get guys sharp.”
Collins also left Boardwalk Hall with another observation.
“I think Atlantic City is a good place to play hoops,” he said.
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