BROOKLYN — The Nets streak of seven straight home wins and five straight wins overall was snapped in gut-wrenching fashion Monday night.
Deron Williams’ inbounds pass with 10 seconds left was stolen by Toronto’s Patrick Patterson, whose jumper gave the Raptors a stunning 104-103 win in Barclays Center.
Instead of closing to within one-half a game of Toronto for first place in the Atlantic Division, the Nets fell two and one-half games back.
With the next two games against red-hot Oklahoma City and relentless Indiana, the Nets (20-23) might truly come to regret the win that suddenly became a loss.
The challenge facing Coach Jason Kidd and the Nets is to make sure this loss doesn’t beat them twice, or three times.
The Nets don’t play again until Friday night when Kevin Durant and the Thunder come to town. Durant is the hottest player on the planet. And the Thunder surely hasn’t forgotten its last game against the Nets.
Oklahoma City led by 10 with less than seven minutes to go before Joe Johnson sparked a stunning comeback. That win ignited the Nets, who won 10 of their first 11 games in 2014.
Now they have to try to avoid losing two straight for the first time in 2014.
“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."
This is not a good position for Williams and the Nets.
Williams is an emotional player, one who’s been known to be his own worst critic. When he sprained his left ankle for the third time this season and couldn’t play as the Nets caught fire, his teammates, led by Kevin Garnett, made certain to assure D-Will he remains a big part of the team.
Williams has been a true pro in adapting to his new role off the bench. The loss to Toronto was the first since he’s been in that role. Kidd might consider moving him back into the starting lineup, partly because it might be the emotional lift Williams needs.
Garnett said that in the locker room after the game one of the first orders of business was making certain Williams understood this loss wasn’t all on him. It’s accurate. The Nets did not play with the same defensive intelligence they showed throughout most of January.
Kidd gave the Nets off Tuesday. They return to practice on Wednesday, which means their first film session from the loss, especially the errant throw-in, will be studied.
According to ESPN’s most recent power poll, Oklahoma City and Indiana are 1-2. The Nets have surged back into the playoff picture after a woeful start. But going into Tuesday night’s games, they hold the seventh spot, which affords little margin for error.
Williams and the Nets must put the Toronto loss in the rear view mirror.
“There’s nothing I can do now,’’ Williams said of the pass. “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."