by Alex Sims, October 25, 2012
Deron Williams and the Brooklyn Nets got their first true taste of the budding New York basketball rivalry on Wednesday night.
The Nets and Knicks clashed in their preseason finale at Nassau Coliseum in Long Island — a game the Knicks eventually won 97-95 in overtime, long after starters had exited the game for both sides.
Though the game was little more than a tune-up for both teams, a sold out arena and decidedly pro-Knicks crowd gave the game a playoff-type atmosphere.
"I thought it was a good crowd," D-Will said. "A little more Knicks fans than Nets fans, even though it was our home game. That's to be expected on Long Island, probably. But I thought the crowd was great. I thought we had a lot of fans that were in there cheering and just as loud as Knicks fans sometimes."
The energy gave credence to what Deron and his teammates have been hearing from Brooklynites since the team arrived in the borough.
"People stop me a lot on the streets," D-Will told Newsday on Tuesday, "especially in Brooklyn, coming out of the arena, around the arena, telling us how we need to beat the Knicks. We definitely hear it. We definitely know it's there."
Regardless of all the talk, D-Will and the Nets are focused on staying above the noise and did a good job of that on Wednesday, in a back and forth battle between two Eastern Conference contenders.
D-Will was hot from the outset, pouring in 12 points in the opening quarter, including three treys, as Brooklyn ran out to a 23-16 lead after one. But the Knicks' reserves led a second quarter rally as the team shot a blistering 64 percent from the field to tally 30 points and take a 46-43 lead into halftime.
"I think we came out pretty well," Deron said. "The first quarter was solid. We did some good things defensively. We executed our game plan pretty well. Then the second quarter, things changed."
The Nets came back to tie the score twice in the third, first on an alley-oop from Deron to Kris Humphries early in the half and later on a D-Will layup that knotted the score at 59 with 3:18 remaining in the third. But the Knicks ended the third on a 10-4 run to take the lead back.
The fourth quarter was left to the second unit for each side and though the Nets did enough to send the game to overtime, hot perimeter shooting from the Knicks reserves won out in the hotly contested extra session. After the game, D-Will noted some positives in his team's play, but also lamented some missed opportunities.
"Everything was [better] in stretches tonight," he told the New York Post. "We just need to get more consistent stops. We're more trading baskets right now. We get a stop here and there, and then we trade baskets. We've got to try to get three, four, five stops in a row, and then build on that."
No. 8 led all players with 22 points to go with three rebounds, two assists and two steals in the loss. The performance closed out a solid preseason for Deron, in which he averaged nearly 16 points and 5.4 assists while playing in five games, as Brooklyn finished at an even 3-3.
After the game, when he was asked about the hype surrounding the rivalry in the week leading up to the opener, D-Will deflected the attention back to the court.
"It's going to be a good week of practice," he told the media at the Nassau Coliseum. "Everyone knows we need to work and get better. At the same time we need to get our rest and make sure everyone's healthy for game one."
It will be the beginning of an 82-game march to the postseason, so despite the Nets-Knicks buzz, the game will be just one of those 82.
"We're ready for the season," Deron said. "We have a week now to prepare and get ready for the Knicks. We'll look at this film and see some changes that can be made. I still think we need to learn to execute a lot better. We have a tendency to kind of shortcut plays a little bit. We can't just get caught going through the motions."
There is little concern for Brooklyn offensively at this point. With D-Will distributing to all-star shooting guard Joe Johnson, center Brook Lopez and others, the Nets know they will score. The team is instead focused on improving on the defensive end, specifically against the pick-and-roll—an area Deron acknowledged Wednesday night.
"They hurt us a lot with the pick-and-roll," he said. "Guys were getting to the basket pretty easily. Raymond Felton came off and was able to kind of walk in for easy layups—that kind of thing can't happen. There are some good things we can look at and try to clean up for the next time we see them."
D-Will and the Nets have a whole week to sharpen up defensively before facing their rival once again next Thursday at the Barclays Center.
It will be the official christening of the Brooklyn arena and the beginning of a new era for the Nets franchise. The atmosphere will undoubtedly be electric, especially with the cross-town rival Knicks in the building.
"I think it's already heated up a lot. Everybody's talking about it. Everybody's excited about this game, and hopefully it'll be a good rivalry for years to come," D-Will told ESPN New York. "I got some friends on the team. But come Nov. 1, we'll be ready for them. They're not my friends anymore."
The season opener is set for Thursday, Nov. 1 at 7 p.m. EDT and the game can be seen nationwide on TNT.
- Talk of rivalry with Knicks intensifies around Nets (Newsday, October 23, 2012)
- Nets vs. Knicks (Oct. 24) - Deron Williams (NBA.com, October 24, 2012)
- Knicks beat Nets in tuneup for season opener (The Associated Press, October 24, 2012)
- Knicks Beat Nets on Night When Everything Seems Off (New York Times, October 24, 2012)
- Nets return to Long Island roots (Newsday, October 25, 2012)
- Nets turn focus to real battle (New York Post, October 25, 2012)
- D-Will: Knicks 'not my friends anymore' (ESPN New York, October 25, 2012)