With two strong performances behind them and a big rivalry game with the New York Knicks ahead, Deron Williams and the Brooklyn Nets had a letdown on Wednesday night in Brooklyn against the young and hungry Minnesota Timberwolves.
Minnesota came out hot and established an early 17-2 lead, but the Nets weathered the storm and bounced back to lead at halftime and had a six-point advantage with under five minutes remaining. But a furious late charge from Minnesota came with now answer from Brooklyn and the Nets saw that late lead turn into a 98-91 defeat.
D-Will finished with 19 points on 8-of-16 shooting, six assists, two rebounds and a block in 39 minutes. But afterward, he opined that the loss, and the manner in which it happened, showed Brooklyn that they still have a long way to
“They just made plays and we didn’t,” he said. “We didn’t do a good job of closing out the game, and they did. It’s just part of the learning process for us as a team. We have to figure these things out. Tonight was an example.”
The Nets entered their third game in five days riding a two game winning streak, but any momentum they carried in was erased. They Nets turned the ball over twice in the first minute and missed 10 of their first 11 shots. The only one that went in for Brooklyn during the first 5:54 of the game was a Brook Lopez layup off a feed from D-Will.
On the other end, the Timberwolves knocked down six of their first 10 shots and grabbed nine rebounds over the same span, which allowed them to jump out to a 17-2 lead. D-Will said after the game that the Nets allowed their failure to hit shots on the offensive end bleed over into their defense as Minnesota got open looks and put forth better effort to grab rebounds.
“Getting off to that bad start early hurt us,” he said. “I think when you look up and we’d missed 10 shots in a row, we kind of let that affect us on the other end of the floor. We’ve talked about that a lot. It’s something that can’t really happen. You can’t let your offense and missing shots dictate what you do on the other end of the floor.”
However, Deron also noted that Brooklyn didn’t get too discouraged during Minnesota’s game-opening run, because they knew they were getting good looks, they simply had to start making them.
“We missed a lot of open shots,” he said. “I thought we got some good shots and some good looks, we just didn’t make them. If we make them, you’d look up and we’d probably have 10-12 assists in that first quarter. At times, when you’re not making shots you go into forcing things and trying to do it on your own. I know I did a couple times. It’s something we’ll get better at as the season goes on. We’ll learn from our mistakes.”
Deron managed to stop the bleeding near the halfway mark of the quarter when he penetrated the lane and knocked down an off-balance teardrop to make it 17-4. Two minutes later, he added another bucket by driving inside and connecting on a tough short jumper that cut Brooklyn’s deficit to 11.
When No. 8 exited the game with 2:46 remaining in the first the Nets were down just nine and had gotten back on track. By the end of the first, they’d pulled within three points, down 24-21.
“The second group did a good job of coming in and getting it reasonable by the end of the first quarter,” D-Will said.
Brooklyn coach Lionel Hollins has often sent Deron back out on the floor to start the second quarter as the leader of the Nets reserve group early this season, but that was not the case on Wednesday. Instead, Joe Johnson was the lone starter in the game to start the second, while D-Will got a few extra minutes of rest.
That rest paid off as No. 8 put on a show in the second quarter.
He returned to the game with just under four minutes gone by in the frame and the score tied, and needed less than a minute to change that as he connected on a three with 7:34 remaining in the half to give Brooklyn its first lead of the game, 33-30. Deron added a mid-range jumper moments later to make it a four-point game, then combined with Kevin Garnett to answer a score by Minnesota’s rookie sensation Andrew Wiggins with one of their own as D-Will dished to KG who buried a long jumper to make it 40-36.
After a score by Minnesota big man Nikola Pekovic trimmed the Brooklyn advantage to two, No. 8 answered with his second three of the night, a 26-foot bomb off a feed from Alan Anderson. After a steal by Bojan Bogdanovic, Deron checked his heat with another three-point attempt, but missed the mark, his first miss of the night after knocking down his first five attempts.
The two teams went back and forth from there and the game featured four lead changes in the final 2:14 of the half. The last of those game with 14.1 seconds remaining when D-Will dished a key helper to Mirza Teletovic for a trey that staked the Nets to a 48-47 halftime advantage.
After their poor first quarter shooting the ball, Brooklyn shot 52.4 percent from the field and 71.4 percent from the three point line in the second. The Nets also did a good job on the defensive side of the ball, holding the Timberwolves to only 38.1 percent shooting from the field in the second. At the break, Deron led the way with 12 points and three assists.
“We definitely had some good things we could take away from the game,” D-Will said. “We were able to take control of the game and it looked kinda like we might pull away.”
Kevin Martin opened the second half with a three to give the T-Wolves a two-point lead, but the Nets scored the next six points. Johnson tied the score with a floater and after a block by Lopez, D-Will give the Nets the lead by driving in and connecting on a floater of his own. Then, after another stop on defense, No. 8 kept the pedal to the metal and drove to the hoop for a layup to make it 54-50 Nets and force a Minnesota timeout.
With the two quick buckets in the third, Deron was cooking, having connected on 7-of-8 attempts from the field to that point. However, the Timberwolves quickly adjusted and suddenly their defensive rotations were geared toward taking away D-Will’s driving lanes.
As that happened, the Nets went cold and Minnesota scored six straight points to take the lead back. Brooklyn stayed within striking distance for most of the quarter and were down two after D-Will fed Lopez for a hook shot with 5:24 left in the third.
But the Wolves went on a 7-0 run from there to extend their lead to nine, 69-60. Wiggins led the way for Minnesota in the quarter, with eight points on 3-of-4 shooting from the field and the Wolves led by six after three.
Sensing that his team needed a spark, Hollins put No. 8 back on the floor to start the fourth and the Nets began the quarter on a 10-0 run to take back the lead. The backcourt of Deron and Jarrett Jack that has worked so well for Brooklyn so far this season was a crucial component of the surge as the duo scored or assisted on every basket made during the run.
Jack kicked it off with a jumper to cut the deficit to four, then earned a trip to the foul line where he brought the Nets within two. After three straight fruitless possessions between the teams, the Nets got the ball back and moved it well setting up a trey from Teletovic off the hand of Jack to give Brooklyn a 73-72 lead. Moments later, D-Will followed with a triple of his own, off a feed from Johnson, to make it a four-point game.
Led by Deron, Jack and Johnson, the Nets continued to push. No. 8 picked up assists to both Jack and Johnson during the middle portion of the fourth, but after his dime to Johnson for a finger roll gave Brooklyn an 86-80 lead with 4:44 remaining, the Nets went cold.
Over the final four-and-a-half minutes of the contest, Brooklyn made just 2-of-10 shots, both from Johnson, while Minnesota hit on 7-of-9 to close the game on an 18-5 run for the win.
“It seemed like we were stuck in mud a little bit at times,” Deron said afterward. “They battled back and made the right plays at the end of the game and we didn’t.”
The Nets (2-2) won’t have long to dwell on their loss to the Timberwolves as they’ll be right back at Barclays Center on Friday night for the highly anticipated first game of the 2014-15 Battle of the Boroughs against the New York Knicks (2-3).
“It’s good that we’re playing the Knicks. We’re always excited about that rivalry,” Deron said. “It’s good to get any game after this one. We’re definitely disappointed in how we played, how we closed out the game. But that’s the beautiful thing about the NBA, you get a chance to get right back on the court in a couple days.”
Since Deron became a member of the Nets, the teams have had some storied battles, first in New Jersey and Manhattan and the rivalry hit a fever pitch two years ago when the Nets moved to Brooklyn. The teams evenly split their meetings during the Nets’ inaugural year in Brooklyn, but the Knicks got the best of them last season, winning three of the four meetings.
As the intracity rivalry begins its third season, D-Will and his teammates are ready for the challenge of facing their crosstown foes for the first of four games this season.
“It’s grown every year. As we gain more fans throughout the city and Brooklyn, it’s taken on a life,” Deron said. “We definitely get up to play those guys and I’m sure they get up to play us. We’re looking forward to it.”
Tip-off from Barclays Center is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on YES Network and MSG.
- Minnesota’s late game efforts sink Brooklyn, 98-91 (NetsDaily.com, November 5, 2014)
- Nets blow lead in fourth, fall to Timberwolves (NY Post, November 5, 2014)
- Late mistakes by Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez hurt Nets in loss to Timberwolves (Newsday, November 6, 2014)
- Late Fouls by Brook Lopez Doom Nets (The Wall Street Journal, November 5, 2014)
- Pekovic beats up Brook on the block in BK (ESPN NY, November 5, 2014)
- Wolves 98, Nets 91; Pekovic gives Lopez fits (ESPN NY, November 5, 2014)