Let's play a guessing game.
Who's set to make over $19 million this year and a grand total of $98 million over a five-year span in Brooklyn? I'll give you a hint. He missed a wide-open, game-tying shot with 10.9 seconds in a critical Game 2 vs. Atlanta. He also scored just two points on 1-of-7 shooting.
Figure it out yet?
The Nets haven't. They fought, but lost 96-91 after a hard fought battle in Atlanta. Unfortunately, there are no moral victories... especially in the playoffs.
The Hawks beat the Nets by an average of 17 points during four regular season games. Over the last two, they've won by an average of just six. Hope is not lost (yet), but the Nets had some legitimate opportunities to run away with at least one of the two road games. Instead, they head back to Brooklyn down 2-0 with the top team in the East feeling lucky to have escaped with the lead.
In the last segment of "The morning after", we discussed Brook Lopez's seven shot attempts as the main issue. The Nets certainly addressed that issue Wednesday as Lopez finished with 20 points on 15 shots. There are other issues they'll need to address before Saturday's game. A lot of it has come down to leadership and mental toughness.
Something we've been hearing since this whole Brooklyn thing even started.
Where D-Will at?
Here's your answer to the guessing game. Number eight, Deron Williams. His performance and effort was extremely concerning. Williams looked disengaged from the start. The Nets were down 7-2 with an amped up Atlanta crowd. Williams gave up his dribble way behind the three-point line and lobbed a very lackadaisical pass to Thaddeus Young. The Hawks grabbed the ball and all the momentum as they raced their way down the court and extended the run to 9-2. Timeout Nets.
Williams looked lost, emotionally and mentally, as the Nets' got off to a shaky start for the second consecutive game.
The struggles continued throughout. Williams failed to stay in front of Jeff Teague on quite a few occasions, leading to wide-open layups and threes for Atlanta. Most notable late in the game when he failed to cover a back-door pass that ended in an easy layup.
His only two points on the night came at the 5:46 mark of the first quarter. When he checked out of the game, the Nets trailed by nine. When he checked back in, the Nets owned a one-point lead - thanks to a 14-point spurt from his backup, Jarrett Jack.
Williams was hesitant for the rest of the game. I mean, wouldn't you be? He finished 1-for-7 from the field, but it was the seventh miss that was absolutely heartbreaking. Joe Johnson gave Williams a chance to redeem his poor play by giving him the last shot: the potential game tying shot with a little over 10 seconds remaining.
Williams got the defender to jump. He took a step in only to find himself wide-open from 14 feet away. The ball appeared to be halfway down before rimming out with 10.9 seconds as the Nets looked on in utter disappointment as their point guard, former star, and reputed leader failed to redeem himself in the high-pressured moment.
It's very unfair to put all the blame on Williams, because it's not all his fault. Other guys struggled - missed open shots, free throws, defensive assignments, etc. He didn't even have a terrible game facilitating.
He grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out eight assists. But it's the big moment that proved Williams' true colors once again. It's that same constant reminder that the Nets overpaid for an average point guard in this league.
And it's the same causes for another crucial loss: Lack of leadership/Williams' inability to step up to the big moment, thus adding a little more credibility to Paul Pierce's comments.
"Before I got there, I looked at Deron as an MVP candidate,'' Pierce said. "But I felt once we got there, that's not what he wanted to be. He just didn't want that.
"I think a lot of the pressure got to him sometimes. This was his first time in the national spotlight. The media in Utah is not the same as the media in New York, so that can wear on some people. I think it really affected him.''
The truth hurts.
Deron Williams now 2-for-17 from the field in the final five minutes of playoff games #Nets are ahead or behind by five points or fewer.— Mike Mazzeo (@MazzESPN) April 23, 2015
Thaddeus Young struggles
It's unlike Thaddeus Young to deliver a straight up dud. He's been a huge reason for the Nets' second half success after trading the immobile Kevin Garnett to Minnesota. However, Young missed six of his seven shot attempts while his matchup, Paul Millsap, led Atlanta scorers with 19 points.
Like Williams, Young shot 1-for-7 from the field, 0-for-2 from the free throw line, and committed three turnovers in 24 minutes.
It seemed to even out, though, after a 1-for-8 shooting night from DeMarre Carroll. In the five games prior to Wednesday, Carroll averaged over 17 points per game. He also hit 15 of his 27 three-pointers attempted.
Young finished Game 1 with 15 points & 10 rebounds in 39 minutes.
Bogdanovic starts and struggles
Markel Brown played six minutes in the first quarter of Game 1. He hasn't seen action since, and it's because of Lionel Hollins' trust in Bojan Bogdanovic.
Bogdanovic has played well in the second half of the season, but similar to his playing days in Turkey, he's struggled to play at a high level on a consistent basis. Wednesday night was more evidence.
He got the start for Brown and he looked lost on both ends of the ball. Despite playing 34 minutes (3rd highest), Bogdanovic scored eight points on a poor 3-of-9 shooting. In Game 1, Bogie scored just five points on 2-of-8 shooting in 32 minutes. He's a rookie and it takes time to get your feet wet in the NBA playoffs, but that's inexcusable for a player of Bogdanovic's caliber. His only consistency: struggling on the road.
At home, Bogdanovic averages 10.3 points on 48 percent shooting (38 percent 3-point). On the road, he averages 7.5 points on 41 percent shooting (31 percent 3-point). It's a pretty obvious trend.
The Nets know they'll need bigger contributions from Bojan. In all the Brooklyn wins this season, he averaged 10 points on 50 percent shooting. When he's knocking down his open shots and actually poses as a threat for opposing defenders, the entire offense can swing the ball around the perimeter and open up the paint for Brook Lopez.
And finally... turnovers
Great teams will make you pay for your mistakes. I guess that makes the Hawks a great team. Well, it's at least one of the reasons anyway.
The Nets turned the ball over 16 times Wednesday night and it resulted in 19 points for Atlanta. In Game 1, the Nets coughed up the rock 17 times and it resulted in 24 points. That's 43 points squandered in two games that were lost by a combined 12 points.
The Hawks only committed nine turnovers.
Only 16 teams in 261 playoff series have come back from 2-0 to steal the series. If they're hoping to make it 17 out of 262, the Nets will need Williams, Young, and Brown to shoot better than 5-for-23 from the field and the Nets as a team will need to take much better care of the ball.
Let's not forget: Atlanta won 60 games for a reason. Brooklyn only won 38 for a reason.