By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
It wasn't exactly "Hoosiers"-like, but Deron Williams delivered what proved to be an inspirational pep talk to his Net teammates just prior to the second half of an eventual 94-88 triumph over the league-worst Toronto Raptors Wednesday night before a crowd of 18,847 at the Air Canada Centre.
"We'll take a win any way we can get it right now," Williams admitted after Brooklyn (12-9) snapped a season-high five-game losing streak less than 24 hours after enduring a gutwrenching home loss to former Net Jason Kidd and the Atlantic Division-leading New York Knicks at Barclays Center. "It's good to get back on a winning track. It's something we needed in the worst way."
Williams, the Nets' undisputed team leader -- both on the court and off it, watched the previously hapless Raptors (4-19) run out to a 45-37 halftime lead despite missing starters Andrea Bargnani and Kyle Lowry. As the Nets slumped off to the locker room, even coach Avery Johnson felt they needed some type of boost to shake off what had been a dismal 1-5 stretch without injured center Brook Lopez.
"Our energy was low in the first half. It looked like we were feeling sorry for ourselves," noted Johnson. "We had the weight of the world on us. Let's face it."
The mood in the locker room prompted the normally reserved Williams to play speech-maker in the hopes of helping the Nets get back to Brooklyn with a win as they prepare to welcome another of the league's worst teams -- the 7-17 Detroit Pistons -- to Barclays Center on Friday night.
"I just told them we have to come out better [in the second half]," revealed Williams, who finished with 12 points and four assists on another less-than-stellar shooting night (5-for-16). "We need this win. This first half was over with, and we've just got to go."
And go they did.
Joe Johnson, one of the starters who cited the Nets' inability to finish strong during their maddening slide, poured in 19 of his 23 points after intermission as Brooklyn used a 31-19 third quarter to jump back in front of Toronto for good. Backup point man C.J. Watson led the "Bench Mob" with a season-high 16 points to help the Nets heed Williams' message that the time was now to put a halt to their skid.
"After last night's loss, those games are not the easiest to come back from," said coach Johnson. "But that's no excuse. I'm proud of our guys. We made a few corrections after Deron had a little talk with them before the third-quarter started."
"We needed a spark," added Joe Johnson.
Andray Blatche, filling in for Lopez again at the center spot, scored 14 points and pulled down nine boards for Brooklyn. The mercurial pivotman could find himself coming off the bench against Detroit, if Lopez is deemed ready to return after sitting out the past seven games with what was originally diagnosed as a mild foot sprain.
The 7-footer from Stanford, who missed all but five games last season due to an assortment of foot and ankle injuries, was a key ingredient to Brooklyn's inspirational 11-4 start to their historic first campaign in our fair borough. But regardless of who happens to hit the floor for the opening tip against the Pistons this weekend, the Nets have to be ready to bring their best.
"Hopefully, we can start a new [winning] streak," said Watson. "We just have to find our rhythm, no matter who's in or who's out."
The Nets weren't the only Brooklyn hoops squad on the road Wednesday night.
Defending two-time Northeast Conference champion LIU-Brooklyn made the most of its visit to Texas with a 97-70 rout of Rice behind 26 points from senior forward Jamal Olasewere.
C.J. Garner had 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting and reigning NEC Player of the Year Julian Boyd added 13 points as the Blackbirds (4-4) won their fourth in a row following a disappointing 0-4 start under first-year coach Jack Perri.
The Blackbirds will try to win their fifth straight Sunday against Manhattan College at 4 p.m.
On the local high school hoops scene, sophomore Adam Wells hit a floater as time expired Wednesday as Brooklyn Friends, celebrating the 10th anniversary of its Class C State Championship season, pulled out a 48-46 over Brooklyn Heights rival Packer Collegiate. The Lady Panthers (6-2) of BFS beat Churchill, 38-26, on Wednesday as senior Janna Joassainte poured in 19 points despite missing nearly the entire second quarter.
Hoop du Jour: The Nets hit 10-of-19 3-pointers in Toronto after going a dismal 4-of-18 from long range against the Knicks at home Tuesday night, including a pair of late misses that cost them a shot at taking New York to overtime. "Independent of the opponent, that's the way we've got to shoot," insisted coach Johnson. "We've got to be able to shoot like that at home, shoot like that the next game. Because that's what we're capable of." ... F Gerald Wallace started Wednesday despite an ugly knee-on-knee collision with Knicks G J.R. Smith the night before in Brooklyn. He finished with nine points and three assists in just over 25 minutes of action. ... F Reggie Evans, who leads the NBA in rebounds per 48 minutes, ripped down 11 more boards against Toronto, to go with the eye-popping 18 caroms -- a season-high -- he collected Tuesday. ... After hosting the Pistons Friday, the Nets will be in Chicago on Saturday before returning home for Tuesday's matchup with Williams' former team, the Utah Jazz. Brooklyn will visit Madison Square Garden for the first time next Wednesday, hoping to cut into their four-game deficit in the Atlantic Division standings.