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D-Will, Nets miss opportunity at Barclays

1/28/2014

NEW YORK -- With several members of the Seattle Seahawks in attendance, including quarterback Russell Wilson, Deron Williams threw a costly late-game interception that robbed the Brooklyn Nets of a likely victory over the first-place Toronto Raptors Monday night at Barclays Center.

The Nets were ahead 103-102 with 12 seconds left but had no timeouts remaining. Williams, the team’s $98 million franchise point guard, was selected to take the ball out at midcourt.

All he had to do was inbounds the ball to one of his teammates. The Raptors would then foul, and, following a pair of free-throw attempts, the Nets would be a defensive stop away from moving within a half-game of Toronto in the Atlantic Division.

But it didn’t work out that way.

Williams looked left, but all of his potential receivers -- Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Alan Anderson -- were covered. So Williams looked right, and saw Joe Johnson open.

Or so he thought.

Patrick Patterson stepped in and played the role of cornerback Richard Sherman, picking off D-Will’s pass. Patterson then gave the ball to Kyle Lowry, got it right back and drilled the game-winning 12-foot jumper with 6 seconds left.

Pierce had a chance to make a game-winning buzzer-beater, but his desperation 3-point heave from the right wing grazed the front of the rim, and the Nets fell 104-103.

Brooklyn (20-23) has now lost twice in January (10-2): both times to the Raptors (23-21), who were playing without leading scorer DeMar DeRozan (21.8 points per game) due to an ankle injury.

“It’s tough,” Williams said. “It definitely hurts, but we have three days to sit and think about it, and that makes it even worse. There’s nothing I can do now, I can’t take it back. It’s not my first time turning the ball over to lose the game, and probably won’t be my last, so we just have to respond on Friday [against the Oklahoma City Thunder].”

Williams, who finished with nine points and 11 assists off the bench in 29 minutes, had two turnovers in the final 21.9 seconds. But he was able to redeem himself after the first one when he went down the other end of the court and took a questionable charge on Lowry.

At that point, Nets coach Jason Kidd was pumping his fist and Raptors coach Dwane Casey was furiously yelling at the officials, who had a pretty poor night themselves, calling 38 personal fouls that led to 48 free throws and three technicals -- one each on Pierce, Garnett and Lowry -- all in the third quarter. In the end, though, Casey’s team go the best of Kidd’s yet again.

“This was a big game for us,” Williams said. “It was definitely a tough loss, especially how it ended, for me and for the team. We were hanging in there. We could have done a lot of things better.”

Agreed.

Lowry, who finished with 31 points, including a 48-footer to end the first half, got to the rim with ease as the Raptors ended up shooting 46.8 percent from the field and outrebounding the Nets, 43-36.

Brooklyn wound up wasting season-highs of 33 points and seven 3-pointers from Pierce, along with a 100-96 lead with 2:32 remaining. Aside from D-Will’s miscues down the stretch, Garnett missed an easy layup and had a 16-footer rattle in and out, and Pierce missed a free throw. Granted, the Nets had to rally back from a nine-point deficit with 7:30 left just to put themselves in a position to possibly come away with a win.

Brooklyn’s five-game winning streak is over and the Shaun Livingston-Anderson-Johnson-Pierce-Garnett starting lineup is no longer undefeated (8-1).

“I am very confident [in our late-game execution],” Kidd said. “We have a veteran group of guys and we’ve been executing down the stretch offensively and defensively, and this was just a game that we made a mistake at the end.”

A very costly one at that.

“It happens,” Kidd said. “You put the ball in your best player’s hands and you expect them to make plays. In basketball, sometimes you make a mistake and turn the ball over, and that’s what happened tonight.”

Consider this a missed opportunity.