The Brooklyn Nets were trailing the Cleveland Cavaliers by just one point heading into the second half. That’s when they had their third quarter swoon that left them trying to play catch up throughout the entire fourth quarter. They did manage to briefly tie it late in the game, but Paul Pierce missed a chance to tie it with 16.9 seconds left and Jason Terry missed a three with 9.9 seconds left that sealed their eventual 98-94 loss Wednesday night.
The entire time the Nets were fighting to come back, their star Deron Williams was sitting on the bench. No doubt it was because of his ankle, but was it because he had a set back or were they simply limiting his minutes. It turned out afterward that it was the latter.
“He’s fine,” interim head coach Joe Prunty confirmed after the game. “We are keeping an eye on his minutes. Just keeping track of it. We wanted to keep him around a certain amount.”
Prunty wouldn’t admit that the team needed D-Will down the stretch. He gave the old, “It’s a team game, we all step up. That’s how it is and that’s what we do. That’s Brooklyn Nets basketball. Would you like him out there? Sure, but we’re ready to go if he’s not.”
Joe Johnson was much more honest about the fact that not having D-Will in those final minutes was hard on the team.
“That was big,” Johnson said. “We needed him out there to orchestrate things and, frankly, the fact that he couldn’t be it was tough for us.”
D-Will was limited to 21 minutes, but when he was out there he was effective. He scored seven points with nine assists and three rebounds. Overall the Nets played well in the fourth as they outscored the Cavs 24-19, but in those final seconds, when Pierce and Terry missed key shots in those final seconds, it was hard to do anything but wonder where D-Will was.
• The Nets looked good at times tonight, they started with a 10-2 run, had a 9-0 run in the third quarter, but they were very inconsistent. After the game Prunty admitted that guys still aren’t exactly on the same page. “I think it comes down to it’s the first game of the season, people are getting comfortable with each other,” he said.
Joe Johnson agreed. “It was alright,” he said of the chemistry. “We looked good at times and looked out of sync at times. Maybe we were being a little too unselfish at times where maybe we need to just make plays. That will come.”
Afterward Pierce wouldn’t put a time period on how long it would take to improve the chemistry.
“Things can happen overnight and things can happen down the road. I saw a lot of great things tonight that we can keep building on as we move forward. For the most part we haven’t had everybody healthy. Jason Terry didn’t play until the last two preseason games, when guys get healthy, when Deron Williams is healthy, we’re going to be a different team.”
KG said, “Everybody has to be patient. It’s not going to be like voila. We’re not a perfect team by far, but we are a hard working team and I’m sure we’re going to learn from this.”
• Offensively, the Nets didn’t have big problems. Often it was just a lack of consistent defense that kept them from controlling this game. Afterward most of the players thought that, overall, the defense was pretty solid. The problem, as they saw it, was that they weren’t finishing out plays.
“All night long we weren’t finishing out possessions on the defensive end,” Jason Terry said. “You play great defense and you hold them for 20 seconds and that last four seconds they would make a shot. For game one we still have a lot of work to do and that starts on the defensive end. Defensive rebounding is part of finishing off your possessions. It’s one of our five rules we have defensively that’s part of our identity. It’s not an area of concern, but it’s apart of our system that we’ve got to get healthy.”
“Obviously it hurts, but we have to go back and look at the reasons why we lost this game,” Pierce said. “Throughout the course of the season we have to understand it’s about the little things. We gave up last second shots and offensive rebounds in key possessions. For the most part we defended well, but we gave them opportunistic rebounds, offensive rebounds It was the little things, the second shots. It was the crucial situations, but overall I thought we defended well.”
• As many things that have changed this offseason, some things stay the same as the Nets once again, like they often did last season, struggled in the third. It’s something that hasn’t gone unnoticed with Johnson.
“The third quarter hurt us a lot last year and it definitely hurt us again tonight. It’s no excuse though, we fought back and took the lead. It was just a couple of shots there at the end.”
• The last word goes to The Big Ticket: “We were playing a good team. They’re definitely better. Mike Brown is back in the league. Congrats to him. They’re playing together. They have so many different parts that are dangerous. It’s not like we’re playing a shitting team, some crap-ass team. This team pushed it to the limit.”