by Jordan Garretson, April 04, 2012
As the New Jersey Nets learned the hard way on Tuesday night, sometimes the ball just doesn't bounce your way.
Deron Williams and the Nets played one of their best defensive games of the season on Tuesday in Los Angeles. They worked hard in the second half, limiting the home standing Lakers to just 33 points after the break. Unfortunately, New Jersey was bitten at the end by a few bounces of the basketball and lost to the Lakers in the final seconds, 91-87.
D-Will scored 20 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, to help bring a beaten Nets squad back to life and nearly topple the Lakers despite a seemingly insurmountable deficit.
But with the Nets down just one point, 10.8 seconds on the game clock and just 2.3 ticks on his own shot clock, Lakers star Kobe Bryant took an inbounds pass and buried a 26-foot three pointer to send the Nets out of Staples Center with a loss.
"He's been making shots like that his whole career so it was no surprise," D-Will said. "He had a great look."
The loss was especially heartbreaking for the Nets, who had overcome a 17-point fourth quarter deficit, tying the score at 86 on a three by D-Will with 1:29 to go.
The Lakers got off to a hot start, hitting 10 of their first 12 shots on the way to shooting 15-of-20 in the first quarter to grab a 32-23 lead. Despite being without All-Star center Andrew Bynum, LA also beat the Nets up inside, scoring 30 of their 58 first half points in the paint.
"We've struggled in the first half. That's kind of become a problem for us," D-Will said. "It all came down to the first half of the game. We didn't play well. We allowed 58 points and they shot 65% from the field in the first half. That's ultimately what cost us the game."
The Lakers pushed their lead as high as 17 in the third, but New Jersey chipped away at the deficit and had it down 12 at the start of the fourth. The game hung in that range for the first five minutes of the final quarter, but — with Deron as the catalyst — the score tightened in the game's closing minutes.
Over the next five-and-a-half minutes, New Jersey went on a 14-4 run. D-Will scored 10 of the 14 points and assisted on the other two baskets to help the Nets pull even. Among the many highlights during the closing stretch was Deron's ankle-breaking crossover on Matt Barnes to set up a fallaway jumper:
That bucket cut the LA lead to six. Shortly thereafter, No. 8, who had not made a 3-pointer all night, spotted up and buried a 26-footer with 3:08 left, cutting Los Angeles' lead to three. He followed that, about two minutes later, with a 28-foot trey to tie the game at 86, marking the first time since the opening tip that the Lakers didn't lead.
"We just keep fighting," Deron said after the game. "That's the thing about us is that we're learning how to continue to fight. The game is a game of runs. If we hang in there and make a couple of runs then you look up and it's tied."
Bryant answered D-Will's trey with a jumper to give LA the lead back and Gerald Wallace responded with a 1-of-2 trip to the free throw line, cutting the deficit to 88-87 with 58 seconds to go.
The swarming New Jersey defense forced Lakers point guard Ramon Sessions into a bad shot on the subsequent possession, which missed, but the Nets could not grab the rebound.
The defense went right back to work, forcing LA to the end of the shot clock again, and a late pass from Sessions hit Gasol's hands and went out of bounds.
The officials initially signaled that it would be Nets basketball, but a video review showed the ball grazing Deron's shorts and trickling out of bounds with 2.3 remaining on the shot clock for the Lakers.
That left Bryant an opportunity for the closing dagger, one he didn't waste.
The Lakers slasher rattled a 26-foot 3-point attempt around the rim before it finally rolled in with 6.8 seconds left, lifting his team's advantage to a more decisive 91-87 margin.
"Normally, those balls like [Bryant's] will bounce out. Unfortunately for us, it bounced in," Nets coach Avery Johnson told NBA.com.
Even Kobe himself had to admit, his shot — which clanked off the rim no less than four times — was benefited by some luck, he told the Associated Press.
"It was just one of those shots, I guess," Bryant said. "The basketball gods were with us tonight."
D-Will last second try at a three missed and New Jersey fell by that final score.
In addition to his 20 points, Deron dished six assists and grabbed three rebounds in the loss. D-Will's furious fourth quarter also came despite a slow start in which he missed his first six shots. He rebounded to hit six of his last nine on the way to scoring his team-high 20.
"I was just off in the first half. I had some good looks in the first half and just missed them," he said. "Foul trouble pretty much cost me the whole third quarter. I just wanted to bounce back and focus a little bit in the fourth quarter."
MEN'S HEALTH TAKES NOTICE
Deron's work with Bonobos and his Point of Hope Foundation has been turning a lot of heads this spring.
Last week's D-Will's mixture of fashion and charity was featured on a blog for the popular magazine Men's Health. Diana Stanczak wrote fondly of the Deron Williams cyber pop-up shop and how it's "scoring major fashion points:"
"Whether you're looking for something to wear on vacation, to the office, or at the bar, you're sure to find what you need. Even better? Twenty percent of the proceeds will be donated to Williams' Point of Hope foundation, an organization that helps children in need. The cyber pop-up shop will be accessible until April 21."
Click here to shop for the cause.
Despite Tuesday's loss, D-Will and the Nets still have a shot to conclude this West Coast road trip in very successful fashion. With a win in Portland on Wednesday, they can finish the Pacific swing 3-1.
Wednesday's contest marks the first meeting this season between the Nets and Blazers. Deron totaled 50 points over his two most recent games against Portland, which both came last season as a member of the Utah Jazz.
Wednesday's game can be seen at 10 p.m. ET on YES.
- Nets-Lakers recap (NBA.com, April 3, 2012)
- Lakers blow big lead, hold off Nets 91-87 (The Associated Press, April 4, 2012)
- Lakers Gameday: Nets vs. Lakers – Postgame Quotes (Lakers.com, April 3, 2012)
- Suit up for a Cause (Men's Health, March 28, 2012)
- Deron Williams Still a Net For Now (ESPN.com, April 3, 2012)