by Alex Sims, December 01, 2012
Deron Williams and the Brooklyn Nets have come to realize just how much they are capable of over the first month of the season.
So when the Nets went into the locker room on Friday night in Orlando leading by just one point, they weren't thrilled with themselves.
"We just weren't happy with how we were playing," D-Will said. "We saw that on the film and even before we saw the film we knew. Our helpside D wasn't there, we messed up on a lot of our pick and roll coverages. We just had to refocus and get serious."
The Nets' serious side came out with a bang in the third quarter as they scored 31 points on 54.5 percent from the field, while the defense limited Orlando to just 21 points, including an 0-fer from beyond the arc. The third quarter surge was enough to overcome Brooklyn's sedated start on the way to a 98-86 road victory. The win secured the best 15-game start in franchise history.
After netting 11 points to go along with seven assists and four rebounds in the Nets' fifth straight win, D-Will said the fixes Brooklyn implemented in their defense for the second half led to easy offense.
"I think we just got a little more focused," he said. "Because we got stops, it made us run, get some easy baskets and then get some confidence on the other end."
That confidence allowed the Nets to succeed despite the absence of starting center and scoring leader Brook Lopez, who sat out with a foot injury. Deron said the Nets believe in the "next man up" mentality and the depth that general manager Billy King assembled for Brooklyn in the offseason has much to do with their success.
"We have a very deep team," said D-Will. "That's what we've been banking on all year. If a guy goes out here and there, we have guys who can step in and fill in for them. It's definitely a good problem to have, having a lot of guys that can play."
Andray Blatche filled nicely in for Lopez down low, tallying 14 points and nine rebounds in his first start of the season. Along with Blatche, guard Joe Johnson and forward Gerald Wallace also played a huge part in picking up the scoring slack in the absence of Lopez.
No. 8 jump-started the second-half rally, finding Wallace for a three-pointer early in the third quarter. This was the first of three consecutive threes buried by Wallace and Johnson.
"He's just very versatile," D-Will said of Wallace. "He definitely works on his three-point shot. He can post up and he's one of our best passers. He's just very versatile for us, on both ends of the floor."
Wallace—who finished with 20 points, four rebounds and three assists—knocked down four threes in that third frame, while Johnson and Deron each added one, as the Nets finished 6-of-7 from downtown in the third quarter.
"We just got a lot of open shots and guys knocked them down," No. 8 said. "It wasn't a plan to come out and shoot threes. That's just how it played out."
That third quarter, in which Deron tallied five assists, would all but turn the lights out on the Magic at the Amway Center. In the fourth, Johnson poured on six of his game-high 22 points and two of his five assists in just over two minutes. Finally, Mirza Teletovic flipped the final switch, nailing a three-pointer to give Brooklyn a 19-point lead with two minutes to go in the game.
"We're starting to click a little bit more, especially defensively," Deron said. "We're holding teams under 90 points on the regular and we're scoring 95 to 98 points, which is good. We want to push the tempo a little bit more and get into our sets a little bit earlier. That's something we're going to work on going forward."
On Saturday, Brooklyn (11-4) will look to take the top spot in the Eastern Conference against the defending NBA champion Miami Heat (11-3).
The Nets will be out to begin the month of December on the right foot, all while exacting revenge for a disheartening 103-73 loss to the Heat earlier in the season. Deron said the Heat can expect a radically different Brooklyn team from the first time they met.
"We came into that game and we had won a couple games, but we still weren't playing the right way," D-Will said. "Defensively, we were nowhere near where we're supposed to be. We're light years ahead of where we were then. I'm not even going to focus on that game as a measuring stick."
In that contest, the Nets were without their all-purpose forward Wallace, but they will be without Lopez on Saturday, making the task of topping the defending champs that much taller.
"We're very anxious. I think we're a different team this time than we were then. Not just because we didn't have Gerald. We're playing a lot better," No. 8 said. "But now we don't have Brook. So we just have to be really focused, know we're going to have to play our best basketball to get a win down there."
The game is slated to tip-off at 7:30 p.m. EST from the American Airlines Arena in Miami, and will be broadcast nationally on NBA TV or locally on YES Network.
- Gerald Wallace and Joe Johnson lead Nets to win over Magic (New York Times, November 30, 2012)
- Nets stomp Magic, win fifth straight game (New York Daily News, November 30, 2012)
- Wallace's outside shooting helps power Nets past Magic (New York Post, November 30, 2012)
- Hot shooting by Gerald Wallace, Joe Johnson helps Nets to win fifth straight (Newsday, November 30, 2012)