NEW YORK — Anyone who has watched the Brooklyn Nets this season is aware of their struggles in the third quarters of games.
Of the teams that are in the NBA Playoffs, the Nets failed to score 20 points in the third quarter against them 11 times.
Barclays Center collectively wondered if that would be the case in Monday night's Game 5 against the Chicago Bulls, but Deron Williams made sure that didn’t happen.
On Monday night, Williams erupted in the third, scoring nine points in the first four-and-a-half minutes of the quarter. By the time the third ended, he finished the period with 13 big points.
Despite the Bulls scoring 29 points in the third, the Nets held a four-point lead heading into what could have been the final quarter of their season.
Williams' offensive proficiency was especially crucial because Joe Johnson did not take a shot in the third. With Kirk Hinrich missing the game due to an ankle injury and the diminutive Nate Robinson being used as a primary defender against Williams, it was crucial to the playoff survival of the team that he not only feed Brook Lopez in the post, but also take advantage of the compromised defense.
Though he only scored 10 points in the other three quarters combined, Williams was able to accomplish both, finishing the game with 23 points and 10 assists. Lopez still got his looks, though, scoring a team-high 28 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
I asked Williams about his huge third quarter. “I just kind of got it going in that third," he said. "I just happened to get going. I got frustrated with a couple of no-calls and I think that just got me going.”
If Hinrich—who was in a walking boot the morning of Game 5—does not play in Game 6, Williams will have to come out with the same mindset he had tonight.
If he is able to play at least as well as he did in Monday night's Game 5, the Nets will have a good chance of forcing a Game 7 back at Barclays Center on Saturday afternoon. Williams will need to get the continued contributions from Lopez, though that should not be a concern considering Lopez has been the most consistent Net all season.
Before the Nets begin thinking about a Game 7, though, Game 6 must be had. And on the road, it will be tough. If the same energy and passion that we saw for most of Game 4 and all of Game 5 is not there, the Nets' inaugural season in Brooklyn may end on Thursday—disappointing the team's fans.
The Nets are taking it one day at a time, though. The team is off on Tuesday and will head back to Chicago on Wednesday.
Win or lose, they will be headed back to Brooklyn after Thursday night's Game 6. Williams needs to do all he can to ensure that the Bulls have to plan a return trip, as well.