No sooner had the final whistle blown on New Jersey's 93-86 loss to the Celtics Tuesday, before the Nets began dissecting what went wrong in Game 2.
Not enough interior strength. Not enough rebounding.
"We need to control the boards," guard Lucious Harris told the New York Post afterwards. "They get second attempts and kick it out to (Antoine) Walker and (Paul) Pierce, it's tough."
Williams has a soft touch around the basket.
"(Boston) outhustled us," Nets coach Byron Scott told the Star-Ledger
. "They were a little bit more aggressive, a little bit more physical."
The numbers back up their claims as well, as the Nets were outrebounded 60-49 in Game 2. Boston also collected 18 offensive rebounds to New Jersey's 10. Game 1 saw the opposite, though, as the Nets won the battle of the boards, 49-38, and the game, 104-97.
So what's the prescription for what ails the Nets, other than an extra dose of Kenyon Martin and spiking their Gatorade with salt and vinegar? The answer may lie in an unheralded 6-9 backup forward-center who has played for seven teams over his eight-season playing career.
The answer may just be Aaron Williams.
Williams has already been a revelation early on in this series, as the 30-year-old from Xavier is averaging 13.0 ppg and 5.5 rpg. Game 2 was particularly impressive, as Williams scored 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds in 31 minutes.
More than just points and rebounds, Williams also brings strength and toughness. His chiseled build makes him a natural for mixing it up down low, and Williams thrives when the game calls for contact.
Williams isn't just a muscular presence, though. He has a surprisingly soft touch around the rim, as evidenced by his .615 shooting percentage (8-for-13) so far in the Eastern Finals. While he's not a go-to interior player, he is an opportunistic shooter who can also rise and finish with authority.
Williams shares a laugh with Anthony Johnson.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images
In fact, in these regards -- strength, dunking, and hard-nosed play -- he serves as the perfect compliment off the bench for starting center Todd MacCulloch
. Despite MacCulloch's size, the 7-1 "T-MacC" is more of a finesse player who relishes pump fakes, jump shots and heady passing.
So can Williams expect to see more time in the Celtics series? Coach Scott hinted that the answers aren't coming from his starting big men.
"The thing I think that is most disturbing -- (Boston's) front line had 37 rebounds, our front line had 17," Nets coach Byron Scott told the New York Times, speaking of his starters at the three, four and five: MacCulloch, Martin and Keith Van Horn. "We're not going to win a lot of games if that's all we had. Our starting front line had one offensive rebound."
Looks like a job for a journeyman hustler who isn't afraid to mix it up down low.