The Brooklyn Nets signed Deron Williams to a $98 million dollar contract just two offseasons ago. They paid him like a superstar. Down 3-1 versus LeBron James and the Miami Heat, the Nets could really use a superstar performance on Wednesday night in Miami.
Through the first four games of this series versus the Heat, Williams play has been relatively inconsistent. He's averaging just 9.7 points per game, 6.7 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.2 made three-pointers. He is shooting just 34.1% from the field. Since making seven of his 10 attempts in the first game of the series, Williams has shot just eight of 34 from the field, good for just 23.5% from the floor. Williams has not made up for it by getting to the free throw line either. He has only attempted four free throws this series and made all of them. He has made five of his 12 three-point attempts.
Williams got off to a promising start with a 17 point performance in Game One. The Nets lost that game by 21 points.
In Game Two, Williams struggled mightily. He missed all nine of his attempts and went scoreless for the game. He finished with six assists and seven rebounds. Brooklyn lost that game by 12 points. They were close throughout but Miami pulled away late.
Williams bounced back somewhat in Game's Three and Four. He scored nine points and dished out 11 assists in the Nets lone victory of the series to this point. He followed that up with 13 points, seven assists and six rebounds in a close, excruciating loss for the Nets. He still only shot eight of 25 from floor combined for the two games.
Surely, it is not all on Williams. The Nets have not gotten fully consistent play from any of their players this series. Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Andray Blatche, Mirza Teletovic and Shaun Livingston have all struggled at some points through the first four games. Johnson, Livingston and Alan Anderson have quite possibly been the Nets best players this series, and even they have not been great all series. Livingston has been able to take advantage of his matchups against Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen, but he got off to a slow start in Game One and is simply not a big time scorer. Anderson has played well these entire playoffs but he too is not a big time scorer. Johnson is the Nets best scorer but he has a difficult task whenever James is guarding him.
Pierce and Garnett can provide as much heart to the Nets as the team may need, but at the end of the day they still have to produce at a higher level. Garnett has bounced back following a poor performance in the first contest of the series. He has been rebounding the ball at a high rate in the last three games, averaging 8.7 boards in just 23 minutes of action per game. He has not scored much, though, as he has scored just 22 points in three games. Despite putting up 14 points and 16 points, respectively, in the last two games, Pierce has been mired in foul trouble. He has had five fouls in each of the last two contests. He's had the difficult task of attempting to guard James on the defensive end.
Blatche and Teletovic were each terrific off the bench in Game Three. Blatche had a double-double while Teletovic caught fire from three-point land. If those two play well for Brooklyn, they can create serious problems defensively for Miami. The same goes for Andrei Kirilenko on the defensive side.
In the end, though, it all comes back to Williams for the Nets. Facing a team with James, Wade, Allen and Chris Bosh, the Nets need all their stars to play at a high level. Williams best game of this series was Game Three. He was aggressive with the ball, making quick decisions and throwing pin-point passes as he was able to beautifully facilitate the offense and set-up his teammates for easy lay-ups or open jumpers. Even though his shot was not falling that game, Williams was still aggressive in attacking the lane and pushing the ball up the court.
It certainly won't be easy for Brooklyn to get a win on Wednesday night. Miami will look to send Brooklyn home for the season as the Heat sit on the doorstep of their fourth consecutive Eastern Conference Finals appearance. It's also a safe bet that if any player on the court has a great game it will be James.
If the Nets hope to come back home for a Game Six on Friday night, they will likely need a big performance from Williams. If he does not play very well, the Nets season will most likely be over.
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