by Alex Sims, January 16, 2013
The Toronto Raptors played one of their best games of the season on Tuesday night in Brooklyn, but even that wasn't enough to hold back Deron Williams and the streaking Nets.
Brooklyn countered Toronto's highest-scoring performance of the month with a high-octane attack that produced 18 fast-break points and allowed three players to score 20-plus points on the way to a 113-106 victory.
"They shot really well. Our defense wasn't where we'd like it to be, but we just hung in there, battled, fought and we got a win." D-Will said, complimenting the Raptors. "This is a good team. Their record doesn't indicate how good they are. They've gotten a lot more consistency lately and they're playing better. This is a good basketball team."
The victory marked a season-high seventh consecutive in the win column for the Nets. Deron was one of the three Brooklyn stars to net 20, tallying 21 points and seven assists while logging a game-high 42 minutes on the floor. Joe Johnson had 21 points of his own along with five assists and five boards.
Brook Lopez posted a game-high 22 points to go with nine boards and a pair of blocks. With three trending stars, the Nets have looked like a different team in the 2013 calendar year, they are still undefeated since the calendar turned, playing loose, free and fast.
"It's been fun to be a part of," Johnson said. "When the ball is moving, we're sharing and we've got the defense off balance, it's fun playing like that. We're just kind of feeding off each other. We're in a nice rhythm right now. Hopefully we can keep it this way. It's a lot of fun to watch and guys are having a lot of fun in this locker room."
Deron Williams and Joe Johnson are developing some deadly chemistry. Fun to watch. #BrooklynNets
— Satvik Patel (@NosideMuzik) January 16, 2013
Brooklyn's big three weren't the only players in white and black having fun on Tuesday night. Bosnian rookie Mirza Teletovic has continued to find his zone in the NBA, knocking down a trio of three-pointers for 10 total points on Tuesday. He also had three assists, four boards, a steal and a block. As Deron pointed out after the win, Teletovic is living proof that good things come to those who wait.
"He stayed patient," D-Will said of Teletovic. "He was in a tough position in the beginning of the season. He wasn't getting much playing time. And then being thrown out there and having to produce, that's tough for anybody. Now he's getting some more minutes, a little steadier minutes and you can see what he can bring to this team. He can be a huge part of this team and we need him."
Teletovic provided the initial spark for one of Brooklyn's most electrifying plays this season by blocking a layup attempt from Toronto's Terrence Ross. Brooklyn center Andray Blatche recovered the loose ball and pushed it forward in transition, putting on a three-man-weave clinic with D-Will and MarShon Brooks. At the end of the run, Deron tossed pristine pass behind his back between three defenders to Blatche, who finished at the rim to give the Nets a 15-point lead.
Well, the crowd is rocking now. Beautiful passing sequence between Williams and Brooks on the break ends with a Blatche layup. Nets up 93-78
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) January 16, 2013
Highlight of the year perhaps?
— The Brooklyn Game (@TheBKGame) January 16, 2013
That phenomenal play caused jaws to drop across the league and was even named play of the day by NBA.com. However, it didn't surprise D-Will at all. No. 8 knew it was only a matter of time before Brooklyn's budding rapport boiled over.
"The chemistry is a lot better. Our confidence with each other is a lot better," Deron said. "Our confidence is high right now as a group. When you're winning, when you're having fun, I think everybody picks their game up a bit and it feels like they have to if they don't want to be left out. If guys are just ready to play, it'll work."
Confidence is everything. And every #Nets player seems to have it.
— Mike Mazzeo (@MazzESPN) January 16, 2013
The Nets and Raptors traded shots for much of the first half, as Brooklyn was able to snatch a four-point lead at the break. From the opening tip, the Nets came out looking to develop a quick rhythm and score in transition as much as possible.
"Tonight we thought it was important to get it ahead," said Brooklyn head coach P.J. Carlesimo. "We just got the ball up the court and that was as good as any offense we were running. Joe had the ball, one guy playing him and he was able to go in and overpower the guy. Deron did the same thing a couple times. That pace is important for us. I don't want to run up and down and shoot it every time, but we need to get the easy baskets."
Brooklyn secured 10 fast-break points in the first two frames, but the Raptors simply couldn't be kept out of their game. Six Toronto shooters had six points or more by halftime. Turnover margin was the lone difference at the break and would prove to be one of the biggest deciding factors in this game. The Nets were positive-six at the break and finished the game with seven fewer turnovers than the Raptors.
"P.J. talked about it before the game, winning the turnover battle," Deron said. "They're a low turnover team and the times we played against them we struggled in that area. We definitely did a better job of taking the ball tonight and that translates."
To start the second quarter, Brooklyn endured a drought of more than six minutes without a field goal. During this time, the Raptors built a 10-point advantage, though four free throws from D-Will helped keep the Nets afloat.
No. 8 finished 8-for-8 from the charity stripe where the Nets went 25-for-28 as a team. Deron has now knocked down every one of his last 40 free-throw attempts.
.@deronwilliams' consecutive free throw streak reaches 40
— Nets PR Dept. (@Nets_PR) January 16, 2013
Teletovic eventually hit the chain-breaking triple at the 5:52 mark in the second to free the Nets from the field and allow them to resume their high-tempo pace. Brooklyn surged to take the lead at the half. From then on, the Nets never trailed by more than one point. Brooklyn had eight of its fast-break points in the second half and outscored the Raptors by 13 in transition.
After the victory, D-Will noted that the better the Nets are on defense, the more chances in transition they will receive. And the more Brooklyn runs, the more Brooklyn wins.
"We need to get out and run more and I think we've done that during this win streak," he said. "It's made us successful. It gets us going a little bit more. But the key to that, really, is getting stops. When we can get stops, we can get out and run more. That's the key."
As the Nets continue their stay in the win column, their confidence level will continue to rise meteorically. They endured an egregious December and the loss of their head coach, but have since made a complete turnaround, winning nine out of 10 games under Carlesimo in impressive fashion.
During the 7-game stretch, Brooklyn is besting the opposition by 13.8 points per game
— Nets PR Dept. (@Nets_PR) January 16, 2013
In seven game streak, #Nets averaging 108 ppg, tops in NBA over that stretch.
— NetsDaily.com (@NetsDaily) January 16, 2013
Tuesday's win has Brooklyn on the longest winning streak in the NBA and now just two games behind the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference standings.
It will be a quick turnaround for the Nets (23-15), as they immediately head south to Atlanta to take on the Hawks (21-16) on Wednesday night.
The game will be the first of a home-and-home series, taking place on Wednesday in Atlanta and Friday in Brooklyn. It will also be Nets guard Joe Johnson's first game against his former team since coming to Brooklyn.
The Hawks were trampled by the Chicago Bulls on Monday night, netting just a season-low 58 points in the 97-58 loss. However, D-Will warned that the Nets should be wary of this talented squad coming off an embarrassing loss.
"That makes them very dangerous," Deron said. "Any time you have a bad loss like that, the next game you're going to come out ready to play. We have to come out ready to go. It's a big game for us. We're on this streak and we want to keep it alive. They're another good playoff basketball team."
The Wednesday night tilt is slated to begin at 7:30 p.m. EST from Philips Arena and will be broadcast on the YES Network.