by Alex Sims, March 18, 2013
Deron Williams and the Brooklyn Nets begin a eight-game road trip on Monday night in Detroit, a fact that made Sunday night's game in Brooklyn against the Atlanta Hawks carry a little extra weight.
But after playing three quarters of superb basketball against Atlanta, the Nets had a letdown in the fourth Hawks swiftly soared to a 105-93 victory after a dominant 34-20 fourth quarter.
The loss was a missed opportunity for Brooklyn, who had the top spot in the Atlantic Division centered in their sights after a loss by the New York Knicks earlier in the day put the Nets just a half game behind their crosstown rivals. A victory would have moved them into a first-place tie atop the division and into third place in the Eastern Conference.
"This was a huge game for us," D-Will said. "They played like it was and we really didn't. It's a big missed opportunity, especially with the Knicks losing today. It would've been a good step. A good confidence builder to get us going through this road trip."
Opportunities were there for the Nets to seize their own destiny, but they failed to take control and paid for it late. The two teams teetered back and forth through 12 ties and nine lead changes in the first three quarters and neither squad pulled ahead by more than six points. Deron tallied nine points and four assists in the third quarter alone, including back-to-back jumpers to start the frame.
He continued that strong quarter with consecutive dimes to Brook Lopez and a huge triple after a deep post up later in the third. Then, to cap the third, he buried another two-point jumper to give Brooklyn the lead, 72-71. Andray Blatche added a free throw in the final seconds of the frame to give the Nets a 73-71 advantage going into the fourth.
However the fourth quarter belonged to Atlanta. The Hawks started the final frame on a 13-4 run behind Jeff Teague and Dahntay Jones. After the game, D-Will credited Teague and Atlanta's pick and roll for deciding the game in the fourth.
"They killed us in the pick and roll," Deron said. "Teague was just making a lot of things happen in the fourth quarter, especially late. They hit a lot of shots and made plays down the stretch. You definitely can't take anything away from them. They came out and played well tonight."
That spurt gave Atlanta the game's biggest lead at seven points and they oulled away from there. D-Will, who finished with a team-high 18 points, eight assists and three steals, was left searching for answers as to what the Nets can do to improve their focus and consistency on the court.
"I don't know what it is. I've been trying to figure that out all year. We've been really inconsistent game to game, during games. When we sub, at times it takes us a while to get going again," D-Will said. "It's on everybody to be ready when your number is called. It happens the other way, where the second group is playing well and then we get back in [and mess it up]. It's been like that all season. We just have to be ready to get going."
The Nets (38-28) now face a tough eight-game road trip, during which they'll be searching for that consistency on the fly. With the playoffs approaching, D-Will believes that this long road trip may have come at exactly the right time for his Brooklyn squad.
"I think that we've been talking about this road trip for a while now. This is a big stretch for us to see what we're made of, to see how tough we are mentally, physically," No. 8 said. "Two weeks is a long time to be away from home, and so hopefully guys' minds don't wander and we stay focused on basketball and get wins, because this is a tough stretch."
During Brooklyn's 17-day road trip, the Barclays Center will host the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, which forced the Nets out of their home arena.
The trip will begin with an immediate turnaround for the Nets, who flew to Detroit right after Sunday's loss to prepare for Monday's matchup with the Pistons. Without much time to think about the loss to Atlanta, D-Will and the Nets hope Monday will bring a victory and a boost of confidence to start the road slate.
"Hopefully we just bounce back," Deron said. "That's all we can do is bounce back and play better than tonight. We can get a win and get some confidence going."
After that, the Nets will head south to Dallas, then out to the west coast for five games before returning back east to Cleveland on April 3rd to conclude the road trip.
Monday night's game will be the third of four meetings between Brooklyn and Detroit this season, with the fourth coming in Brooklyn for the Nets' regular season finale. Brooklyn took both of the first two games of the season series, but only by a combined total of five points.
With a chance to clinch the season series, the Nets will tip off with the Pistons at 7:30 p.m. EDT. The game will air locally on YES.
- Vets fume after Nets miss huge opportunity (ESPN New York, March 17, 2013)
- Nets not Kings of New York after loss to Hawks (New York Daily News, March 17, 2013)
- Nets lose to Hawks, miss shot at division lead (New York Post, March 18, 2013)
- Nets face challenging 8-game road trip (New York Post, March 18, 2013)
- Nets lose, remain one game behind Knicks (Newsday, March 17, 2013)
- Nets absent for playoff atmosphere (Examiner.com, March 18, 2013)