Wizards buried under Deron Williams three-point barrage


I’m feeling it. (REUTERS/Adam Hunger)

Deron Williams scored 23 points in the first eight minutes on Friday against the Wizards. The Wizards needed roughly 20 minutes to score 23 points – and by then, Williams already tallied 26.

At halftime, Williams had matched the entire Wizards team with 33 – despite attempting no free throws – and set a new NBA record with nine three-pointers in one half. It was bad enough that they couldn’t keep up with Williams in the first two quarters, even worse that they had more missed field goals (35) than points.

The Wizards don’t have to search long and hard into why they lost to the Brooklyn Nets, 95-78, on Friday at Barclays Center. They couldn’t shoot for the entire game and they didn’t or perhaps couldn’t find with the guy in the white jersey, wearing No. 8. Whether he was coming off screens, pulling up in transition, or simply being ignored, Williams buried the Wizards before they had a chance to see the shovel.

“He got hot,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “That really launch padded them into what they were doing. Guys get hot in this league and you’ve got to change up on what you’re doing and how you’re guarding. We kept playing him the same way and didn’t take anything away from him.”

During a timeout in the second quarter, John Wall, Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza huddled off to the side trying to figure out a strategy on how to slow down Williams, who has suddenly returned to his all-star form since coming back from several injections in his troublesome ankles over the break.

But nothing could’ve prepared the Wizards for what Williams unleashed. The Wizards trailed 38-14 after one period and never recovered.

“I didn’t really care about his point scored,” Webster said about Williams. “I just cared about winning the game. He was knocking down jump shots but it could’ve been anybody. Could’ve been the whole team hitting shots. We  wanted to figure out how to get stops and we couldn’t do that in the first half.”

Said Wall, “I think we got caught in not knowing. First quarter, it hit us.”

Williams hit his ninth three-pointer to send the Nets into the locker room with 26-point halftime lead. The Wizards trailed by 27 in the third quarter before Ariza found Webster and he made the team’s first three-pointer of the game to get them within 64-40.

Then Wall had a scary fall when he jumped to defend Nets forward Gerald Wallace inside and crashed into hardwood. Wall braced himself with his hands, but still banged his head a little and needed assistance back up.

Wittman collected a technical foul as Wallace attempted the free throws and shortly thereafter his team started to make a run – with a lineup that featured Emeka Okafor and reserves A.J. Price, Garrett Temple, Kevin Seraphin and Cartier Martin – and got within 13 when Price hit a three-pointer with 9:06 left the fourth period.

“Just brought more intensity, more of a commitment,” Price, a native of Amityville, N.Y., who had 20 friends and family in attendance. “We wanted to hit first. We got back in the game, cut the lead down.”

Price had a chance to put the Wizards in position to really make the Nets and their fans really uneasy when he hit a three-pointer that would’ve cut the deficit to 10. But he was called for traveling, which upset Wittman.

Wittman had to be more upset when Williams drove into the lane and found Nets all-star center Brook Lopez for a dunk that kept the Wizards from getting any closer. They lost by double-digits for the first time since Feb. 13 against Detroit, the final game before the all-star break.

“We didn’t give up, hard our chances, but it’s difficult, when you spot them 25, 26 points immediately,” Okafor said. “We just got off to a rough start.”

The Wizards tried to come back by intentionally fouling Nets offensively-challenged forward Reggie Evans on five consecutive possessions. Evans missed 7 of 10, including a woeful air ball with his home crowd chanting his name. He eventually made two in a row – to the delight of teammate Joe Johnson, who couldn’t stop laughing at the foul line – and the fans gave him a louder ovation than Williams.

“A guy’s missing free throws, gave us a chance to keep the clock stopped. I thought it was a good strategy to go to,” Wittman said.

It would’ve worked if his team could actually score, but after trailing by 15 when the Hack-a-Reggie started, they were down by 16 when it ended. Evans finished with 24 rebounds, the most allowed by an opponent since Cleveland center Anderson Varejao grabbed 23 in the season opener.

“Ball was everywhere and it helped that we weren’t hitting shots,” Okafor said after the Wizards shot 35.6 percent for the entire game. “It was a lot of rebounds to grab.”

The Nets shot just 11 for 40 (27.5 percent) and Williams was just 2 of 5 from beyond the three-point line in the second half, but he put the game away with his franchise record-setting 11th three-pointer in the final two minutes, giving Brooklyn a 93-74 lead.

“He was hitting. Made shots,” Price said of Williams. “Got off early. Hard to stop him. He really didn’t score that much in the second half, but he set the tone in the first half.”

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.

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Michael Lee · March 8, 2013