With the playoffs on the horizon and their seeding all but settled, it's hard to blame Deron Williams and the Brooklyn Nets for looking past Tuesday's matchup against the New York Knicks in the penultimate game of the regular season.
But New York made Brooklyn pay for looking ahead.
The Knicks emerged victorious in the second year of The Battle of the Boroughs, as their 109-98 victory at Barclays Center on Tuesday gave New York a 3-1 win in the regular season series.
D-Will finished with 10 points on 4-of-9 from the field and added two rebounds, an assist and a steal, which extended his franchise-best streak of consecutive game with a steal to 30 games.
No. 8 also survived a bit of a scare after a great diving hustle play to keep the ball alive in the second quarter. As he saved the ball, D-Will fell to the court hard and was in obvious pain after the fall, walking gingerly.
But Deron dusted himself off and played through it, much to the pleasure of his coach, Jason Kidd.
"I think Deron has gotten better as the year has gone on, but the biggest thing is his health," Coach Jason Kidd said. "He's gotten healthy, so hopefully that continues through the playoffs."
@DeronWilliams with the nice Hustle play
— ™®GrindMode (@Cash_RulesFAB) April 16, 2014
Deron Williams is looking pretty fast
— Kevin Lo (@ItsKloYo) April 16, 2014
Though the Nets played hard, the loss came as a result of their struggle find any semblance of offensive rhythm in the first quarter. The visitors took full advantage, quickly grabbing a double-digit lead.
D-Will cut the deficit to seven late in the opening frame, when he successfully drew contact on a layup attempt and made both the shot and subsequent the free throw, for three of his first-frame five points. However, the Knicks replied with the sharpshooting of rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. and took a 29-18 advantage at the end of the opening frame.
The Nets attempted a comeback in the second quarter, but the Knicks held strong, using their big men to get to the free throw line and extend their lead. Through 24 minutes of play, New York held a 55-43 advantage.
NY extended its lead in the third quarter, despite Deron's best efforts to bring his team back. He knocked down a huge trey three minutes into the period and then assisted on a Joe Johnson triple on the next Nets possession. With 11 seconds left in the frame, No. 8 extended his league-leading steal streak to 30 by scooping up a loose ball and turning it into a layup for Jorge Gutierrez.
With the game well out of reach, Nets Coach Jason Kidd decided to rest Deron and the rest of his starters for the entire fourth quarter. Brooklyn's bench played well in their stead with Thornton, Plumlee, and Andray Blatche showing signs that they could be incredibly useful come crunch time.
In the end, New York claimed a 109-98 victory and the season series over their rivals. However, it will be Brooklyn, not the Knicks, that will represent the city in the playoffs. Meanwhile, D-Will was glad to catch a little rest at the end of the game, with an eye toward the team's postseason journey that is about to begins.
"We're built for the playoffs, but I think it's most important we get healthy," Deron said "If we have everybody healthy, if we have everybody whole, we can go in with a whole head of steam."
Brooklyn finishes the regular season in Cleveland on Wednesday when they take on the Cavaliers and in an effort to make sure the team's health is intact, the Nets announced early Wednesday that a slew of Nets regulars, including Deron, will not play in the regular season finale.
Williams, Johnson, Teletovic and Livingston are out tonight. In media notes. Confirmed via PR injury report is accurate. #Nets
— Mike Mazzeo (@MazzESPN) April 16, 2014
The Nets need a win or a loss by the Washington Wizards to secure the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. A loss and a Wizards win would drop Brooklyn to sixth.
Tip-off of Wednesday's game against the Cavs is slated for 8 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on YES Network.
- D-Will to succeed: This is Deron's shot to prove he's still elite (NY Post, April 15, 2014)
- Nets gladly accept top billing in New York as lone playoff team (Newsday, April 16, 2014)
- Knicks roll past Nets, 109-98, as Anthony sits out (The Associated Press, April 15, 2014)
- A New York Rivalry Takes an Uneven Turn (NY Times, April 16, 2014)
- Brooklyn Nets Now the Only Playoff Show in Town (The Wall Street Journal, April 15, 2014)
- Knicks blast playoff-focused Nets, 109-98 (The Record, April 15, 2014)
- Blowout at Barclays: 109-98 Loss at Home (Nets Daily, April 15, 2014)
- Nets eyeing postseason (SNY Nets, April 15, 2014)
- Knicks win borough battle, Nets Eye Playoffs (The Brooklyn Game, April 16, 2014)