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Williams Returns, But Offense Isn't Enough vs. Knicks

March 30th, 2011

NEWARK, N.J.Thanks a second straight 39-point night from Carmelo Anthony, the New York Knicks defeated the New Jersey Nets 120-116 at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks attained their second straight win as Anthony went off for 20 points in the third quarter, helping erase a 10-point halftime deficit. Chauncey Billups scored 33 points. Anthony Morrow led the Nets with 30 points, who lost despite the return of Deron Williams.

For more, read Mike Vorkunov's recap on NBA.com: Click Here

Williams Returns, But Offense Isn't Enough vs. Knicks
A game after struggling to score left the Nets at the mercy of the Rockets transition offense, the offense was not the problem. It was actually a boon, explosive and inside-out, led by Brook Lopez (26 points) and Anthony Morrow (season-high 36 points, 4-5 3Ps), but orchestrated by Deron Williams.

The Nets point guard, back after six games on the sidelines, racked up 22 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in 37 minutes during Wednesdays 120-116 loss to the Knicks, though he fired short on a jumper in the final seconds that couldve tied the game at 118. Williams seemed irritated at himself for rushing the open pullup, one shot of many that might well have been affected by his strained wrist tendon.

Its frustrating, Williams admitted. But we had some good things come out of it. Its all just a process for us. Everybody is being evaluated right now. Moving forward these are just good games to be a part of.

The Nets are learning that when Williams plays, their offensive execution picks up even when he isnt involved in the play. Cuts are crisper, confidence rises higher and the scoreboard flips faster; the team has scored more than 100 points in six of Williams nine games after having done so 15 times in the previous 58.

Morrow, who entered this season a one-dimensional spot-up shooter, has fleshed out his game and felt confident enough in the early flow to size up Carmelo Anthony late in the first quarter, putting a quick dribble fake on the star forward before pulling up and rattling in a jumper. It is the kind of move a limited player often wants to make, but cant execute because the attitude isnt really there, and any hesitation at this level means the shot caroms wildly if it avoids being swatted.

With Williams at the helm, it is the kind of move the Nets often make.

They have begun to expect the open looks, and create for themselves. Lopez often positions himself deep in the post, or dives hard after setting solid screens up top. Kris Humphries (15 points, 14 rebounds) cuts through seams, finding backdoor dunks or putback opportunities. Morrow, transition threes.

For a guy that hasnt played or practiced with contact, I thought (Deron) was awfully good, said Nets coach Avery Johnson. Deron is really good at point, and you can see how he ignites our offense. Hopefully, in the future, well be able to win some of these games.

That will start on the defensive end, where the Nets must find ways to stop opponents from filleting their scouting strategies. Anthony and fellow forward Amar'e Stoudemire combined for 61 points; Chauncey Billups added another 33; the trio combined to shoot 35-of-74 (.473), accounting for nearly 80 percent of the Knick offense.

The next opportunity is in Philadelphia on Friday, when the Nets challenge the 76ers, who have given them fits in recent seasons. This years playoff-bound outfit features perennial stat-stuffer Andre Iguodala and a rejuvenated Elton Brand leading a young team that outran the Nets defense in Februarys 106-92 loss, a game in which the Nets allowed 35 fast-break points.

We played great offense in stretches, Williams said. I think thats what hurt us in the third quarter we stopped doing the things that made us successful in the first. Weve got to play better defense. Weve got to get stops. You cant give up 120 points on the road (and expect to win).


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