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Hornets make things interesting late, but Lopez and Williams carry the Nets to a 101-97 victory

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

No, the big story of tonight's Nets-Hornets game wasn't the battle between brothers, Brook Lopez and Robin Lopez. Nor was it the absence of Joe Johnson for the third straight game.

The real story -- or shall I say, stories -- was/were the stellar performance of one Deron Williams in the first half (and late in the fourth), the continued confusing rotations from P.J. Carlesimo and the Nets nearly falling apart, again, in the second half.

What once was a 22-point lead turned into a three point lead late in the fourth, before Brook finally returned to the game and he and Williams essentially carried the Nets to the final buzzer, beating the Hornets 101-97, and snapping their 4-game road losing streak in New Orleans and two-game losing streak overall.

Had it not been for Brook -- and Deron hitting his free throws down the stretch -- the Nets probably would not have won this game. Something Carlesimo probably needs to reflect on in the coming days.

Williams got out to a hot start, hitting six of his first seven shot attempts, including two threes, and dishing out three dimes in the first quarter. In fact, he nearly out-scored the Hornets in the first, going for 14 points to New Orleans' 18 first-quarter points. It was the Williams of old. For a quarter, at least.

The Nets as a team were highly efficient and extremely effective, scoring 31 points on 67 percent shooting, making 14 shots on 10 assists.

In the second, the bench took over for the Nets, with Kris Humphries coming strong off the glass and scoring a few hustle points, while MarShon Brooks scored six actual points and Andray Blatche added eight, to extend the team's double-digit lead. The ball movement was beautiful, with Blatche dishing in the post and hitting Keith Bogans on the baseline, with the ball swinging around, reaching C.J. Watson who drilled a three. It was near flawless execution.

Brooklyn carried a 57-41 lead into halftime, with Williams going for 20 first-half points on 62.3 percent shooting -- dishing 17 assists on 23 made baskets.

The second half started off with the Nets continuing to execute on the offensive side of the ball. Until, however, Williams picked up his third foul while simultaneously getting his hand stepped on. He was forced to take a seat on the bench, sparking a 8-4 Hornets run, pulling them within 12 of the Nets.

Williams was quickly reinserted to restore order.

The Hornets, however, chipped and chipped away at the Nets' lead. At about the midway point in the third, the Hornets had cut the lead to single digits, 66-59. Thankfully, Watson caught fire, scoring five straight and bringing the lead back to 11. After a push-back from the Hornets, the Nets lead at the end of three was just eight, 73-65.

More curious rotations in the fourth quarter. Even as the Hornets were making a run, P.J. Carlesimo opted to keep Brook Lopez on the bench in the fourth. The Hornets pulled within six points and then, and only then, did Carlesimo decide to insert Mirza Teletovic.

Still no Brook, six minutes left in the game, Nets up by only six points.

Lead down to four points, finally, Brook Lopez returns. And wouldn't you know, he scores on his first possession, and his second touch after that.

Where was Brook for the first eight minutes of the fourth? Can't seem to figure that out. If it wasn't for him, the Nets would not have won this game. Down the stretch it was all Brook. Period. Something needs to give here, and if it's being stubborn on Carlesimo's part, well, he needs to man-up and get Brook back into the game earlier down the stretch.

Lopez finished with 20 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four blocks, while Williams went for 33 points and eight assists.

For more on the Hornets, see: At The Hive