After dropping the first two games of the series in Atlanta, the Brooklyn Nets have won back-to-back games against the Hawks, including Monday’s 120-115 overtime win in Game 4. All five starters scored in double figures for both teams, but none was better than Deron Williams, who had 35 points, seven three-pointers, seven assists, five rebounds and three steals.
“In a way, fans are delighted in his performance, but Net fans get frustrated in the same sense because they think, ‘Where is that every night?” Nets radio voice Chris Carrino said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench “What he’s capable of doing is incredible, and to come out with 35 points last night after scoring 18 in the previous three combined (was incredible). He had the game in his hands in Game 2 and couldn’t make an easy, open baseline jumper – and the criticism this guy had to handle. And I mean, listen, the Nets are sort of second fiddle in New York. If this was Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks, this guy – they would have been running up and down broadway with torches. He gets a little bit of a reprieve because he’s in Brooklyn and he can go a little more under the radar.
“But I thought what was significant was that after Game 3 – where he was just getting lambasted in the media – his coach and his teammates spoke up for him and they had his back,” Carrino continued. “It was the first time you really saw that kind of support, that level they went to, to go out of their way to stick up for their guy. He mentioned it after the game last night that he was aware of it, he was appreciative of it, and he rewarded his teammates and his coaches for their loyalty with what was a virtuoso performance. The timeliness of some of the baskets, the decision-making, just the way he lifted the crowd at moments when they needed it – it was spectacular. It will go down as one of the great performances in Nets franchise history. And now can they sustain it? Can he do it again? Can the Nets come away with this series? That’s the question that still remains to be answered.”
The Hawks went 60-22 this season, while the Nets finished below .500 at 38-44. Atlanta also went 4-0 against Brooklyn in the regular season, winning by an average of 15.8 points.
And yet, here we are, all knotted up heading into Game 5 on Wednesday.
“Well, I’ll tell you what,” Carrino said. “Going in, not that I thought Atlanta was invincible – even though they were a 60-win team and they were top of the conference. The reason I wasn’t sure what the Nets could do, if they could take this series is because in the regular season, the Nets just didn’t match up well to Atlanta. They just didn’t look good against Atlanta. When teams have small, athletic guys at the power positions – the 4 and the 5 – it kind of takes Brook Lopez out of his game a little bit. It just was not a matchup that favored the Nets and they got dominated three games. And then the last game they played in the regular season, the Nets lost a game at home. They were competitive, but you just felt like, well, if Atlanta’s playing their game, the Nets just don’t match up. And you walked into this series going, ‘The Nets are going to have to show that they are better than they’ve been all year if they’re going to be able to compete.’”
They have been.
Can the Nets steal one in Atlanta and head back to Brooklyn up 3-2?
“I don’t think either team played really well the first two games,” Carrino said. “I don’t think Atlanta played well the first three games. I thought in Game 4, Atlanta played really well and the Nets still won the game. In the beginning of the series, I’m thinking, I don’t know if the Nets can get a game or two. And now, when you’re looking at it from a Nets perspective after these four games – and you saw what the Nets just did in Games 3 and 4 – you’re expecting the Nets now to win this series. If you’re a Nets fan, you’re going to be frustrated and upset if they don’t win this series. That’s what it’s gotten to now. It has more to do with Atlanta being exposed than the Nets rising to another level.”