BY DARRELL WILLIAMS
Special to The Advocate
March 20, 2013
NEW ORLEANS — Guard Deron Williams got the Brooklyn Nets off and running, then helped hold off New Orleans after the Hornets caught up Tuesday at New Orleans Arena.
After a big first half, Williams scored 11 of his 33 points in the final 1 minute, 24 seconds, and the Nets held on for a 101-97 victory against a furious comeback by the Hornets.
“I just wanted to be there for my team when we needed it,” Williams said. “It felt good to be able to get going down the stretch and close out a game, something I’ve struggled with this year but I’ve been pretty successful at most of my career.”
The loss was the third in four home games for the Hornets (20-38) and fourth in five games overall. The victory was the fourth in five road games for Brooklyn (34-24), which was coming off two home losses.
With backcourt mate Joe Johnson missing his third consecutive game with a sore left heel, Williams led Brooklyn on a blistering pace through much of the game. He calmly sank six free throws at the end to seal it.
Nets center Brook Lopez, in his battle against twin brother Robin of the Hornets, scored 20 points. Reserve guard Keith Bogans scored 12, including big 3-pointers two minutes apart in the fourth that gave Brooklyn 10- and nine-point leads.
Greivis Vasquez had 20 points, Robin Lopez 14 and Ryan Anderson 13 for the Hornets, who sliced a nine-point lead to two in the final seconds.
With four minutes left in the third quarter, for the second time in three games, rookie power forward Anthony Davis left the game to an injury, this time his left shoulder, and didn’t return.
In the fourth quarter, the Hornets continued their second-half comeback, and a 3-pointer by rookie guard Austin Rivers and a 16-footer by Jason Smith brought them to 84-80 with 5:17 left in the game.
It was 86-82 when Brook Lopez made a runner to the rim with 2:15 left, then followed with two free throws. After Robin Lopez sank two free throws, Williams hit a 3-pointer from the left wing to push the lead to 93-84 with 1:24 showing.
The Hornets outscored Brooklyn 13-4 to close to 99-97, but only 1.7 seconds remained, and Williams was again fouled and made the free throws.
Vasquez, who led the Hornets in scoring, rebounding with eight, and assists with seven, said not taking advantage of opportunities around the two-minute mark was telling.
“We cut it to four twice, but we couldn’t get a basket, and we had the momentum,” he said.
To coach Monty Williams, a 31-20 deficit at the end of the first quarter — in which the Nets shot 66.7 percent, with Williams getting 14 points and Lopez 10 — put his team in a tough spot.
“It’s certainly not a place where you want to be — that’s unacceptable,” he said. “If we want our fans to come out and support us, we have to bring the energy and effort, because we don’t have a high level of talent at every position.”
Williams scored 20 points as Brooklyn took a 57-41 halftime lead behind 62.2 percent shooting. The Hornets turned up the defensive intensity in the third quarter, however, cutting the lead in half, 73-65.
New Orleans had trimmed the halftime deficit to 12 at four minutes into the quarter, then to nine, 66-57, at 4:58. However, each time, the Nets pushed the margin back out to as much as 12 again, the last time to 73-61 on a 3-pointer by backup point guard C.J. Watson with 35.8 seconds left after the Hornets rotated over to guard Williams, then Lopez.
But backup point guard Brian Roberts helped the Hornets execute a big two-for-one shot opportunity when he pulled up for a jumper with 27.1 seconds left. The Hornets got the stop they needed when Watson missed from the corner, then Anderson got the rebound for a run-out, passing to Smith for a layup just before the buzzer ending the quarter.
With a quarter left to play, the Hornets had clawed back, cutting the lead to eight and giving themselves a chance.
The Hornets play at the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night, the last game of their four meetings this season. The Hornets are 0-3 against the Thunder and had to be held off in the final seconds in falling 92-88 in the teams’ previous game at Oklahoma City on Dec. 12. The Thunder came back from 11 points down late in the game. Oklahoma City, which has won its past two games after losing three in a row, has not played since Sunday. The Hornets will be playing the second of back-to-back games for the fourth time this month.