by Jordan Garretson, April 11, 2012
Deron Williams and the Nets had been playing some of their best basketball of the season entering Tuesday's game with the Philadelphia 76ers.
New Jersey had won three straight games at Prudential Center and five of their last seven games overall. D-Will had tallied a double-double in all but one of those five victories, exemplifying his significance to Nets success.
But the Sixers knew all about how important Deron is to the Nets. Earlier this season, D-Will victimized Philadelphia for 34 points in a 97-90 Nets win. Philly coach Doug Collins wasn't going to let that happen again.
"He's definitely the head of the snake," Collins said of Deron after that performance. "An incredibly aggressive player.... Most everything they do, obviously, goes through him."
On Tuesday, with Gerald Wallace out due to a hamstring injury and Gerald Green limited, the Sixers were able to key in on Deron and Deron alone. Philadelphia regularly utilized double teams to keep D-Will from beating them again. Collins even sent versatile forward Andre Iguodala to defend him.
Collins' plan to limit No. 8 and therefore limit the Nets didn't work entirely. Deron has shown throughout his career that his skills are too dynamic for him to be completely eliminated from a game. He still scored 14 points to go along with six rebounds, five assists, and two blocks. But the plan was enough for the Sixers to stymie the Nets and grab a 107-88 victory.
Deron acknowledged that the double teams gave New Jersey fits, but more importantly, he told the New York Post, the Nets' defensive effort against the Sixers wasn't up to snuff:
"They came out ready to play," D-Will said. "The double team took us out of the offense. And our defense wasn't there. We allowed too many transition points, offensive rebounds and it cost us the game."
The loss officially smothered the Nets' slim hopes at making the playoffs.
Still, with seven games remaining in the season — five of them against teams in the playoff hunt — No. 8 has his sights set on ruining the nights of some contenders, he told the Star-Ledger:
"You just want to win as many games as possible,'' the Nets point guard said. "You want to play spoiler. It didn't happen today — we've got to play them two more times.''
D-Will and the Nets will get a couple days off before traveling to Philadelphia on Friday to play the Sixers yet again.
And it's not the last time they'll see Philly this year, so adjustments must be made. The Sixers also come back to New Jersey for one more meeting on April 23.
For his part, Deron will be looking on Friday to put up a performance more like the 34-point night he posted the last time the Nets visited Philadelphia.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on YES.