You likely know the details, so I’ll spare them — but December 23rd has been circled on fan’s calendars since the front office agreed to buy out Deron Williams in July so he could go to Dallas. Depending on who you ask, this current mess in Brooklyn is all Williams’ fault, so tonight was supposed to be the night — the game in which Nets fans would finally get back at him for the last four years, booing him relentlessly for setting an already set-back franchise back another decade.
They did not get that chance.
Of course, late last night, Deron Williams tweaked his hamstring in Toronto, ultimately ruling himself out against the Nets. Convenient, sure; predictable, certainly, but how would the Nets respond?
In the first half, the Nets applied the ever-bold strategy of the non-defensive defense, losing Mavericks in every direction, and were passengers on Dirk Nowitzki’s quest to become the sixth highest scorer in NBA history. However, it was another game fated for a story of two halves as the Nets started the second half on 14-3 run, thanks to the rejuvenation of Joe Johnson and they cut the 64-53 halftime deficit to an astonishing 87-81 lead going into the fourth.
With the Nets clinging to a four-point lead with 6 minutes left in the game, Johnson jacked up a three-pointer from 28 feet out. It airballed and the Mavericks would make them pay through a slew of tough buckets from Wes Matthews, Charlie Villanueva, and Chandler Parsons. The fourth quarter was defined by a couple of gritty Thaddeus Young buckets as he went toe to toe with J.J. Barea for supremacy. With just 6 seconds left, Young found himself beyond the three-point line down by three, so, of course, he launched one up and nailed it before emphatically blocked Barea as time expired to send it to overtime!
There, a couple of Jarrett Jack three-pointers were answered by Barea and a mismatch found Nowitzki posting up Johnson for the go-ahead bucket. With the score at 119-118, they had one more opportunity to win it, but they didn’t get much going out of the timeout, Jack had to shoot a tough three-pointer, and the Nets lost another close one.
At the end of the day, Deron Williams or not, the Brooklyn Nets have always been their own worst enemy and tonight was no different. Whether that was allowing the Mavericks to go 10-13 from three in the first quarter or letting J.J. Barea, Williams’ replacement, score a career-high 32 points, only after clawing their way back from an eleven-point halftime deficit, only to go up by ten, only to blow that. . . it all just reads like a sad Groundhog Day — we’ve been here before and we know where it’s going, but who are we to stop the inevitable?
The stats: 13 PTS, 6-15 FG%, 6 RBS, 2 ASTS, 1 STL, 2 BLKS, 0 TOs,
Brook Lopez had some really nice potential match-ups tonight against Zaza Pachulia and Javale McGee — instead, he played just 13 first half minutes and remained in the game’s background even late in the second half.
Even so, Lopez nearly hit the game-winning bucket in overtime after putting in a sweet touch over Pachulia, but he still ended up with just 13 points and 6 rebounds.
I don’t understand how the Nets prepare for games or continuously not go through Lopez on offense for long stretches at a time — but at this point, I don’t think I’m supposed to.