Deron Williams and the Brooklyn Nets faced their first gauntlet of the season as they went on the road against three of the Western Conference’s top contenders.

But after three games in four days against three foes with combined records of 20-10, the Nets came up winless. After defeat No. 3 to the Portland Trail Blazers, Deron attributed his team coming up empty handed to their inability to lend one another a hand. Brooklyn tallied just 15 assists as a team in the 97-87 loss.

“I think that’s a big problem,” D-Will said of the team’s low assist totals. “This team, this system, the way we want to play, we should have 25 assists, not in the teens. Simple as that. If we’re moving the ball, sharing the ball—if you look at our wins, we’ve passed the ball relatively well.”

Brooklyn Nets v Portland Trail Blazers

Deron had a team-high six assists to go with 19 points in the game, which brought another major issue for Brooklyn: ice cold shooting from deep. The Nets went just 1-of-19 from three, and No. 8 hit that one trifecta with less than 20 seconds to go in the contest.

“It’s a sorry way to end the road trip,” Deron said. “We thought we were going to get a couple of these, instead we’re walking away with none.”

The road-weary Nets were off from the start, as they shot just 26.3 percent in the first quarter as they fell into a 24-15 hole.

Brooklyn Nets v Portland Trail Blazers

In the second, Deron responded for his squad on the offensive end, tallying a team-high 11 points off 5-of-8 shooting. He quickly knocked down two unanswered buckets to start the quarter and cut Portland’s lead to four.

No. 8 scored the team’s first 10 points of the frame and added his 11th shortly after from the charity stripe. However, where the Nets struggled on the night, the Blazers did not. Portland countered with three threes during Deron’s 11-point spurt to actually stretch its lead to 11.

The Nets still continued to battle, and Deron tossed out one of his six assists on the night to help his squad maintain that 11-point deficit.

After going 0-for-8 from three in the first half, the Nets stepped to the inside in the third quarter. They attempted just three threes in the frame and shot 63.2 percent from the floor behind a combined 24 points from their three starting forward, Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez.

Deron tossed out four assists in the frame, including on back-to-back buckets by Garnett and another two later in the quarter to Lopez. However, once again, the Blazers continued to connect from downtown. They went 4-of-6 from three in the third and tacked three more points onto their lead going into the fourth.

Even after a demoralizing three quarters, the Nets kept on fighting. That process started on defense, and Brooklyn limited Portland to 17 points off 30.8 percent shooting in the fourth.

Offensively, Deron kept trying to distribute. In transition with under five minutes to play, he tossed a behind-the-back pass to Jarrett Jack, who finished at the rim through hard contact and notched a three-point play. Shortly thereafter, Johnson logged an assist on a driving bucket by Mirza Teletovic to cut the deficit to six.

Throughout the frame, the Nets found several open threes and continued to search for the big shot that would put them within reach of stealing a road victory. However, the shots just weren’t falling, as they went 1-of-8 from beyond the arc in the fourth.

Finally with 18.9 seconds to go, D-Will stepped up in transition and buried the team’s first trey of the game to slice the lead back down to six. However, that bucket was too little, too late.

Even after a three-game skid, head coach Lionel Hollins remained optimistic about his team, which is still learning to play together under a new system.

Brooklyn Nets v Portland Trail Blazers

“Why shouldn’t we be positive? That’s the question I’d ask you. Why shouldn’t we be positive?” Hollins said. “We played well enough in spurts on this road trip. We just have to get better. It’s the early part of the season. We’re still trying to learn to be consistent with the defensive schemes, learn to be consistent offense.”

D-Will echoed his coach’s outlook, saying that the Nets have all the pieces in place, and that they just need to put everything together on a consistent basis.

“There’s times when we look like a really, really good team, and there’s times where we look like a not-so-good team,” Deron said after Thursday’s loss to Golden State. “We have to figure out how to be a really, really good team all the time.”

NEXT UP

The Nets (4-5) will return home for the next two games for a pair of key Eastern Conference matchups, the first against the defending East champion Miami Heat (5-5).

As Brooklyn moves forward, Deron is preaching that his team must stick together, and eventually, the close losses will turn to victories.

“I think we’re close,” D-Will said. “I really do. Honestly, I think things will click for us. We just have to keep fighting, keep playing, keep trusting each other and have no finger-pointing, no blame-game, and just stay together.”

The Nets will look to avenge their five-game playoff loss to the Heat from last season. Last year, Brooklyn went 5-4 against Miami, winning all four regular-season meetings.

The two East foes are set for a 7:30 p.m. ET tip, and the game will be broadcast on YES.

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