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Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Nets set the bar high with win over Thunder

By Mike Mazzeo

Deron Williams
Nets' Deron Williams shoots in front of Thunder guard Russell Westbrook in the first quarter.
On Wednesday night, the Brooklyn Nets looked every bit like the dominant team they were in November, and nothing like the free-falling team they were in December.

In their 110-93 road victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, winners of 12 in a row at home coming in, the Nets showed heart, guts and an ability to overcome adversity.

Coming off an embarrassing New Year’s Eve effort in San Antonio, they blew a 23-point lead in the fourth quarter, and could’ve folded. Instead, the Nets rose to the occasion. With the score tied at 85, they countered with eight straight points and never looked back.

Question is: Can a landmark win such as this one, their first over a .500 or better team since Nov. 28, galvanize them?

“Hopefully. We’ll know in a few weeks,” interim coach P.J. Carlesimo, who is 3-1 since taking over for the recently fired Avery Johnson, told reporters in Oklahoma City. “It’s one game, but San Antonio was one game, and could’ve signaled the fact that we were going to lose 90 in a row. What I said to them is, ‘We set the bar a little bit high. We showed our ourselves what we’re capable of doing.’ ... This game was really an excellent performance.”

Brooklyn’s $250 million trio of Joe Johnson (season-high 33 points), Deron Williams (19 points, 13 assists, season-high five steals) and Brook Lopez (25 points, five rebounds) combined for 77 points -- including 23 of the team’s season-high 34 in the final period, as the Nets outscored the Thunder, 34-21. They had been outscored 27-15 in the third.

“(This win) can do a lot. It definitely gives us confidence,” Johnson, whose 20 first-half points helped the Nets build a 55-32 lead, which was reduced to 16 at halftime, told YES Network’s sideline reporter Sarah Kustok. “Hopefully we can put a streak together for ourselves. We know we’re better than hanging around a .500 team. We needed to bounce back, and we did tonight.”

With a 5-11 December now in their rear-view mirror, the Nets (17-15) have a chance to go on a nice run in January. Of their next six opponents, just one (Indiana) has a winning record. Given how erratic they’ve been, who knows if they can get on a roll.

Still, they showed signs of being a team that is capable of meeting owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s expectations of getting to the Eastern Conference Finals on Wednesday night. Now they just have to take that success and sustain it.