Nets Letdown in Loss at Toronto

By Lenn Robbins | @lennrobbins
January 12, 2014

BROOKLYN-TO-LONDON—The ball dropped in Times Square, revelers reveled, couples kissed, and the 2014 Brooklyn Nets were transformed into a cohesive team that looked nothing like the 2013 group.

Despite losing Deron Williams to his third sprained left ankle injury of the season, the Nets showed they can be a formidable opponent going forward if they continue to play the aggressive defense they displayed the first six games of 2014.

The Nets are so confident that even after their season-high five-game win streak was snapped by the Raptors in Toronto Saturday night, reserve forward Mirza Teletovic made the following proclamation:

“We’re going to start a new streak in London,” Teletovic said. “It’s as simple that.”

Hello London!

And, Goodnight London!

By the time the Nets touched down here at a little after 7 a.m. local time (2 a.m. back in Brooklyn), the most beautiful three letter word in the English language was ‘bed.’

The Nets flight out of Toronto Saturday night after a 96-80 loss to the Raptors was scrubbed because of an equipment failure. The Nets had to deplane, wait for another aircraft, board the replacement jet, and fly back to Newark.

Tack on a seven-hour flight across the pond and it’s no wonder that by the time the Nets sat down for brunch, foreheads were hitting the table. Literally.

The Nets (15-22) are here to play the Atlanta Hawks (YES; Jan. 16 @ 3 p.m.) in O2 Arena as part of the NBA Global Games. The Hawks (20-18) don’t arrive until Tuesday, giving the Nets an extra day to recover from jet lag.

Williams did not make the trip. He’s been out since the Nets 91-86 win over the Hawks on Jan. 6. The Nets next game is Jan. 20 at the Knicks.

Considering how cautious the Nets have been with bringing back injured players, and the fact that Williams has now hurt the ankle three times, nothing is assured that he will face the Knicks.

Without Williams, other Nets stepped up like never before. They made their strongest statement of the season, winning three more without the star guard, including a 104-95 win over the defending NBA champion Miami Heat on Friday night.

Despite the travel nightmare, when the Nets gathered at their East Rutherford practice facility Sunday afternoon to depart for London, there was a sense of optimism not felt since the team left training camp in early November.

Forget 2013. Hello 2014.

The Nets opened the new year with a stunning come-from-behind win at Oklahoma City and followed it by avenging the season-opening loss at Cleveland by beating the Cavs in Barclays Center.

With Williams playing his best ball of the season, the Nets rallied from a 16-point deficit to edge the Thunder in Oklahoma City. Williams had a season-high 29. He had 21 in a win over the Cavs.

He hasn’t played since but this time the Nets didn’t buckle. They got a great lift off the bench from Teletovic to beat the Hawks. They snapped the Golden State Warriors six-game road win swing and 10-game win streak overall with a startling victory.

Golden State led by as much as 16 in the first quarter and it seemed as if the loss of Williams and center Brook Lopez, who’s out for the season with a broken bone in his foot, were too much to overcome against an elite team.

But power forward Kevin Garnett, who has been searching for his role in the offense, found it in the fourth quarter, scoring 11 of his 13 points, making a key steal, and draining two key free throws.

And in the double OT win over the Heat, reserve point guard Livingston, who suffered a devastating knee injury in 2005, played the best game of his career.

Playing a career-high 51 minutes and grabbing a career-high 11 rebounds, Livingston added 19 points, 5 assists and drew an offensive foul on LeBron James, his sixth of the game, with 36 seconds left in the first OT.

Without James (and Dwyane Wade, who sat out the game to rest his balky knees), the Nets held the Heat to just 2 points in the second OT. The Nets, who were without Lopez and Williams, were not about to make any apologies for the win.

Nor were they about to make any excuses for the 96-80 loss Saturday night in Toronto to the Raptors. The Nets led by 8 with 3:11 left in the fourth quarter, but ran out of juice after going two overtimes against Miami.

Nets fans have been burned too often this season to believe the team has turned the corner. But the confidence is back.

“The confidence is in the fight,’’ Garnett said.

The Nets took today to recover from the fatigue. They’ll have a chance to tour the Chelsea Football Club facilities on Tuesday after getting back to practice.

Until then, the groggy Nets better take caution when crossing the street. Everyone here drives on the wrong side of the road.

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE: After missing 25 straight games with back spasms, Andrei Kirilenko returned and dazzled his teammates and fans with his cerebral, athletic, and energetic play.

Against Golden State, his entrance into the game provided the settling effect the Nets needed to get back in the game. In the Miami game, the 6-9 Kirilenko gave the Nets another defensive look on the 6-8 James.

James picked up his fifth foul when he flung AK 47 aside on a fast break. James accused Kirilenko of flopping, an accusation that surely will be revisited before the Nets play in Miami on March 15.

If Kirilenko can stay healthy, the Nets will have even more depth and defensive options in the small-ball lineup.

Nets Central

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