Nets Game 4 Collapse Ultimately Falls on Deron Williams

Moke Hamilton , NBA Analyst

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Robert Horry got a lot of props and Carmelo Anthony, at least to this point, has not.

If you are an NBA superstar, you get your accolades when the stakes are the highest. And the sobering truth is that Deron Williams should shoulder the blame for the Nets squandering their 14 point lead in the final minutes of Game 4.

On the road, in the playoffs, and with the threat of a 3-1 series deficit looming, it was Williams’ time to step up for his team and bring them back to Brooklyn tied.

Instead, he shriveled when the game was on the line and the Nets now stare at a daunting task: beat the Bulls three times in a row, or else…

An inspection of the box score reveals a solid all-around effort from Williams. 32 points, 10 assists and even two blocked shots.

But 22 of Williams’ 32 points came in the second and third quarter. In the fourth quarter and all three overtimes, he was just 2-for-11 from the field.

While Joe Johnson hit big shot after big shot, it was Williams deferring. It was Williams who seemed hesitant and it was he who seemed to be too small for Game 4’s moments.

In the fourth quarter and three overtimes combined, while we saw Nate Robinson score 12 straight points and force the game into overtime and Joe Johnson refuse to let him team go quietly, Williams could not muster the fortitude to lead his team the the most important victory of their season.

And now, as the Nets sit on the brink of elimination, the question everyone is asking is who can possibly emerge for this team as its leader at its 11th hour.

Erasing a 3-1 series deficit is something that has been done in NBA history just eight times. The last team to do it was Steve Nash’s 2006 Phoenix Suns—who defeated Kobe Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers.

Doing it, though, requires keying in on your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. An effective coach must find a way to neutralize them and exploit them, respectively.

So, for Carlesimo, an opportunity lies within the daunting task.

But no matter how flawless the game plan, there needs to be effective execution.

And that will not happen unless there is a player on the floor that can galvanize and inspire his teammates. Of these players, LeBron James is the NBA’s cream. Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Paul Pierce, Kobe Bryant and even Paul George are all players who seem to prefer to die than lose—especially in the NBA Playoffs.

Can we say the same for Williams?

There is no question that the Nets are a more talented bunch than the Bulls, but the Bulls play harder. The Bulls work harder, and when the Bulls found themselves down by 14 points with 3:45 remaining in Game 4, and after Nate Robinson was leveled by a Gerald Wallace screen, it was he who got up, dusted himself off, and sparked the Bulls on an inspiring 16-2 run to force overtime.

(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

At one point in time, Williams was fairly cast as Chris Paul’s equal. The league wondered which of the emerging point guards would go down in history as one of the best to ever do it.

That now seems so long ago.

C.J. Watson had a chance to give the Nets a 16 point lead with 3:19 remaining, but he missed a breakaway dunk. Reggie Evans was fouled on the offensive rebound and missed both free-throws. On the fourth possession after that critical sequence, after Robison had scored seven quick points, it was Williams who fouled him on a 3-point attempt. Robinson made all three free-throws and the Nets lead was just four.

Two minutes later, Williams missed the game-winning shot at the buzzer, and overtime ensued.

From there, it was the Bulls who resembled a fourth-seed, thirsty to taste the second round. And from Reggie Evans to Joe Johnson, the Nets got gutsy contributions from a multitude of players not named Williams.

Just four days earlier, 3,000 miles away from Brooklyn, with the Grizzlies surging late in Los Angeles, Chris Paul scored eight points in the game’s final 2:35. His final basket halted a spirited Grizzlies comeback and ended the game. Though his Clippers are tied with the Memphis Grizzlies after four games, that position is one that the Nets could only hope to find themselves in after four games against these Bulls.

Both fourth seeds, both point guards of whom much is expected. Chris Paul answers the call.

In Brooklyn’s first playoff appearance, Nets fans can only wonder where Williams was when his team was collapsing down the stretch of Game 4.