A game couldn't be much closer than the one the New Jersey Nets and Phoenix Suns played Monday night, with the Nets losing by one point, 104-103, in overtime.
Really, they lost by a tenth of a second.
After Deron Williams missed a runner off the glass, Kris Humphries was able to tip the ball in. It appeared the Nets had themselves a buzzer-beating victory.
The only problem? The ball came off Humphries' fingertips just after the clock hit 0.0, sealing a tight, tight win for Phoenix.
The Nets came so close so many times. It wasn't just the final sequence in the extra period.
With New Jersey down by three in the closing seconds of regulation, Anthony Morrow was fouled by Steve Nash on a three-point attempt that went about halfway down before popping out. Morrow was able to hit all three free throws and send the game to overtime, but he nearly won the game right there.
After Morrow hit his shots from the line, the Suns were called for a five-second violation as they tried to inbound the ball. The Nets were unable to capitalize, however, and could not get a shot off before regulation ended.
For the second game in a row, Channing Frye was the hero for Phoenix as he hit a three-pointer with about six seconds left in OT to give the Suns their one-point lead. Brook Lopez admitted after the game that it was his fault Frye was open—the result of a rotation not made.
Most Nets fans will feel, though, that Phoenix should have been able to do no more than tie in that situation.
Lopez went to the free-throw line on New Jersey's previous possession with a chance to give his team a three-point lead, but was only able to hit one of his attempts, allowing the Suns to take the lead on Frye's three.
While the narrow loss certainly stings, perhaps it can serve as a character-builder for this young Nets team. They came within a whisker of a victory with an offense that had been installed earlier in the day, and with a point guard who is still trying to figure out his new teammates.
We're also getting a real treat seeing Williams run the show. For the third game in a row he posted a double-double, this time tallying 13 points and 18 assists.
His shot (he was 5-of-14 on the night) isn't falling right now, due to a wrist injury on his shooting arm. He was also only 1-for-5 on three-point attempts, and until he's able to knock those down more consistently he needs to resist the urge to launch from downtown.
The Nets also now know they have a serious clutch player in Morrow.
The third-year pro scored 22 points in the game—12 of them in the fourth quarter, with nine of those being tallied in the final minute.
He too will learn from this game, as he made a costly error in overtime by putting up a three-pointer off a back-tap from Williams when the shot clock had just been reset.
At that moment there was just over a minute left in the game, and the Nets were ahead by one. The wiser move would have been to run another 18 or 20 seconds off the clock before trying to score. No doubt head coach Avery Johnson will let Morrow know this.
Again, so close.
A miscue here. A missed opportunity there. A ball that came off a set of fingers just a fraction of a second too late.
It's a growth opportunity for these Nets, and, if what we just saw is any indication, there isn't too much flowering left to do.
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