Golden State Warriors vs. New Jersey Nets: No Deron Williams, No Problem

Ryan ComstockCorrespondent IMarch 10, 2011

(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Before acquiring Deron Williams, the New Jersey Nets were quite inept offensively.

Really, they were bad, and when facing a team that could score like, say, the Golden State Warriors, it was hard to envision a victory.

Since getting Williams, it's been a different story, but on Wednesday night with the Nets hosting those Warriors, the all-star was away from the team, spending time with his wife who just gave birth to the couple's fourth child.

It stood to reason, then, that it would be a long night for the Nets and their fans.

There must be something about those former Utah Jazz point guards, however, as Sundiata Gaines, currently living out his second 10-day contract with New Jersey, lifted the team and helped get the organization its first three-game winning streak since the 2008-09 season.

In 24 minutes of floor time, Gaines totaled eight assists; more importantly, he recorded four steals, played solid defense all night and came up with the biggest rebound of the game.

With 34 seconds left and the Nets nursing a two-point lead, Gaines came flying in, seemingly out of nowhere, snagging an offensive rebound and allowing his team to run another 22 seconds off the clock before Golden State regained possession.

New Jersey didn't score on the second-chance opportunity awarded by Gaines' hustle, but it was one of the most important plays of the game nonetheless. Without it, the Warriors would have had a chance to push for a quick bucket and, if they couldn't get it, start playing the fouling game.

Given the Nets' recent struggles at the free-throw line, that would not have been a desirable situation.

It wasn't only in the final moments that Gaines came up huge. As indicated by the stats above, he did it all game. The most crucial prolonged stretch came in the first quarter though, and it may have earned the young journeyman an invite to stay with the team for the remainder of the season.

New Jersey was sluggish to start the game, clearly missing Williams' presence on the floor. It also didn't help that energy-man Damion James was stuck in street clothes with a concussion.

About halfway through the first, with the team down 16-11, coach Avery Johnson pulled Jordan Farmar out of the game, replacing him with Gaines.

For the rest of the first period, the Nets went on an 18-6 run in which Gaines notched four assists and hit a fast-break layup off a steal.

The game was pretty even for the rest of the night, making it doubtful that New Jersey would have even had a chance to come away with their 94-90 victory, if not for the contribution of Gaines.

For his part, Farmar shook off his slow start and finished with nine assists, giving the point guard combination of him and Gaines 17 dimes on the night. That's around the number of assists Williams has been averaging since coming to the team.

Any Nets player who was interviewed after the game talked about how they knew someone was going to have to step up in Williams' absence, and just about every player who saw major minutes did.

Brook Lopez scored 26 points and grabbed—get this—10 rebounds, while Kris Humphries got a double-double of his own with 11 points and 15 boards.

Anthony Morrow also came through once again, scoring 22 points on eight-of-17 shooting, including hitting four-of-six three-pointers. Morrow also made the key defensive play of the game when he forced Reggie Williams, who was attempting to tie the game, into a tough, missed shot in the closing seconds.

Morrow isn't necessarily known for his defensive prowess and the Warriors were clearly going at him. To see him hold his ground and play D about as well as possible says nothing but good things about the future.

Lopez also grabbed the rebound on Williams' miss and proceeded to drill both of his free throws after being fouled. The center missed what could have been a clinching shot from the stripe against Phoenix last week, so this should give him some confidence going forward.

As said before, this marks New Jersey's first three-game winning streak in two years. The team is visibly more sure of itself on the court, as the increased self-esteem given to them by the play of Williams has carried over.

The Nets will be without their point guard again on Friday night against the L.A. Clippers, but it might not even matter.

Things just seem to be clicking for this team right now.