Deron Williams played really, really well tonight and was aggressive and assertive on offense. We haven't been able to say that about him much recently.
Ironically enough, the first night that Nets' recent trade acquisition Marcus Thornton was eligible to play, Brooklyn needed him the most. Unfortunately, the former King wasn't able to go because of a bout of food-poisoning-related stomach flu. Thornton, a sharpshooter and instant bench offense option, would have been very useful in a game like the Nets' 93-86 loss to the Golden State Warriors simply because he can hit threes. Tonight? The Nets couldn't, as they were a poor 2-for-21 (9.5%) from beyond the arc in this one.
At the beginning of the evening (or, for us New Yorkers, at like 10:45 pm), it appeared as if Brooklyn wasn't going to compete much with the hot Warriors. Golden State forced four early Nets turnovers and ran out to a 13-2 lead, forcing a Jason Kidd timeout. However, by attacking the rim (BKN was 9-for-10 from the FT stripe in 1st quarter), the Nets gradually came back into the fold, and were down just 28-23 after 12 minutes even with a Jordan Crawford–original Nets draft pick–three with a few ticks left.
Against a high-scoring, explosive team such as the Warriors, keeping within a manageable deficit is extremely important and was something Brooklyn was able to do the entire game, even though Golden State led basically the whole way. In the 2nd quarter, the Brooklyn reserves–missing Thornton, who would have helped greatly–cut into the gap even further, as led by, you guessed it, Andray Blatche (14 points, eight boards). Good Blatche was in Oracle Arena tonight, as he was sending great passes around the court, shimmying to the best of his ability, and even Euro-stepping and Hakeem dream-shaking when needed.
Down three at half, the Nets were able to come oh so close to grabbing the lead from the Warriors early in the 2nd half (51-50) but then saw Golden State rattle off a 11-2 run to distance Brooklyn from its first lead of the night. A few Jermaine O'Neal–scored a game-high 23 points and grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds–dunks punctuated that run, as a porous interior Nets defense was exploited by the Warriors, who managed to hold a +14 paint point advantage even without David Lee and Andrew Bogut healthy.
The Warriors went up by as much as 11 (66-55), but the pesky Nets finished off the 3rd quarter well, on a 9-2 run that made it 68-64 in favor of the home team heading into the final frame. Brooklyn was down a man by that point, though, as Shaun Livingston bruised his tailbone in the 1st half and never returned to the floor. This meant that point guard became a by-committee situation for Jason Kidd in the 2nd half when Deron Williams was on the bench, with Alan Anderson, Joe Johnson, and even Paul Pierce assuming the responsibility at some points.
The 4th quarter was a punch-for-punch affair, as Golden State matched every Brooklyn shot and defensive stop with one of their own. A pair of Steve Blake threes early on were killers for the Nets, who were penalized for every one of their defensive miscues by one of the Western Conference's best teams. With everything considered, the fact that Brooklyn was down just 82-80 with 3:31 left to play was fairly remarkable. Then, after a pair of Draymond Green free throws, long twos from both Deron and Joe Johnson tied up the score at 84 apiece and made this game pretty darn exciting.
Fast forward to just 1:23 remaining in regulation, and, after a pair of O'Neal free throws, the Nets are down 88-86. A big problem this team has had all year has be execution late in games, especially when a big basket has to be scored. Often times, it reverts back to 2012-13 Nets form with a lazy Iso-Joe play that either results in an incredible jumper or just bad possession. Two times in a row, tonight, that poor play setup led to a bad possession, two turnovers in fact, both on bad passes by Joe. Combine those with an insane (and unintentional) banked three-pointer from Stephen Curry at the :37 mark, and Brooklyn's fate in this game was sealed.
Overall, an undoubtedly great effort to fight back, on the road and West Coast, against a top-flight team that gives the Nets matchup problems all across the board. However, once again late-game failures plague this team that couldn't capitalize even when Golden State was without its two best big men. At least there's another one tomorrow.
Some other observations I had from the game: When you shoot 9.5 percent from three-point range, you probably aren't going to do very well in most NBA games. Tonight was no exception, as the long-range ineptitude was widespread amongst all Nets and was truly crippling to the offense. Mirza missed all five of his mainly open attempts, as did Pierce, while Joe made just one of five and Alan Anderson just one of four. Deron took and missed two as well. Marcus Thornton certainly would help with that gruesome statistic….Aside from the missed threes, D-Will played great yet again. He attacked the hoop with a purpose, drawing some fouls, but mainly impressed with his mid-range shooting. Scoring a team-high 20 on 8-for-16 shooting, Deron was money from roughly-18-feet range and saved a bunch of crummy Nets possessions with big shots. It's just one game, but if that Deron can show up for most of the rest of the season and playoffs, then this team will be in a good place.
The Nets don't have much time to shake this one off, as they are back at it tomorrow night in LA against the Lakers, and former teammates MarShon Brooks and Jordan Farmar.