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Thursday, March 20, 2014
Starting Five: Can they close?

By Mike Mazzeo

NEW YORK -- The Brooklyn Nets collapsed in the fourth quarter on Saturday night in D.C.

That wasn’t going to be the case four nights later.

This time, the Nets were able to close.

Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce all made big shots down the stretch, enabling the Nets to pull out a 104-99 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats at Barclays Center.

Williams had 11 points in the fourth quarter, while Johnson and Pierce each added five.

“We learned from our mistakes in D.C. We didn’t panic. We stayed calm. Like [coach] Jason Kidd said, we just continued to trust in one another.”

The Nets had a 10-point fourth quarter lead over the Wizards and lost it. They were outscored 29-15 in the final period and didn’t score for the last 4 1/2 minutes.

On Wednesday night, the Nets lost a seven-point fourth quarter lead -- but this time, they didn’t lose the game.

Brooklyn is now 33-2 when leading after three quarters -- their only two losses coming to the Wizards in D.C.

“They took the lead, but the guys stayed the course ... and we executed on both ends when we had to,” Kidd said.

Kidd felt a particular play symbolized the trust factor he was talking about.

The Nets held a 94-92 lead, and it looked as though they were going to run a pick-and-roll with Williams and Johnson at the left box. But Williams saw Alan Anderson wide-open in the right corner. Anderson could’ve taken the 3-pointer.

Instead, he whipped a pass to Pierce, who drained a 3 from the right wing, giving Brooklyn a five-point lead with 2:29 remaining.

“Everyone’s touching the ball, and everybody has trust in one another in the big moments of the game ... guys are still sharing the ball,” Kidd said.

The Nets had already let a 13-point lead slip. It felt like another collapse was imminent, Brooklyn never being able to pull away from a resilient Charlotte squad.

But in the end, the Nets were able to close, another positive sign from a team playing with a lot of confidence right now.

Question: What do you think of the way the Nets are executing down the stretch? Let us know in the comments section below.

In case you missed it: Williams carried the Nets to victory over Charlotte.

Stats to know: The Nets are 26-5 when scoring 100 or more points; they have won 12 in a row when doing so. ... The Nets are 29-10 when holding their opponents to under 100 points. ... The Nets are 9-3 when D-Will scores 20 or more points, including 6-0 at home.

Up next: Practice Thursday in advance of Friday night’s game against Boston.