By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Taking solace in hard-fought, narrow defeats was supposed to be a thing of the past for the Brooklyn Nets.
But following Wednesday night's 108-93 loss in Milwaukee -- the Nets' 13th in a row to the Bucks and 10th in 13 December games following their brilliant 11-4 start -- coach Avery Johnson sounded satisfied with his struggling team's effort, especially since they took the floor at the Bradley Center without starting point guard Deron Williams.
'What a battle for our guys,'' Johnson said after Brooklyn's fourth-quarter comeback bid fell considerably short. ''Back-to-back games. They played their hearts out. We really had a chance to cut the lead down from four to two or get it tied up, but just couldn't make a shot.''
Williams, who sat out for the first time this season after signing a $100 million pact over the summer, is dealing with an injured wrist, which could force him to miss Brooklyn's game against Charlotte on Friday night at the Barclays Center.
"It's been flaring up all throughout the season," Johnson revealed of Williams' right wrist, which was tweaked on a hard fall during Tuesday's home loss to Boston. "Everytime he falls, he seems to fall directly on it. We'll continue evaluating him on a day by day basis and see if we have him for our next home game."
With or without Williams, the fast-falling Nets had better find a way to pull out at least one win this weekend against two of the NBA's worst teams.
Charlotte and Cleveland, which visits Brooklyn on Saturday, have a combined 14 wins this year, matching the Nets' 2012 total.
"If you want to get this bad taste of losing out of your mouth, it would be a great time to do it," noted Johnson, who is doubtlessly beginning to feel the heat despite the bitterly cold temperatures in our fair borough after earning Coach of the Month honors in November.
Gerald Wallace, who has been as outspoken as any player during Brooklyn's December swoon, was one of the few bright spots on an otherwise disappointing night for the Nets, who were outscored 33-18 in the second quarter and could never quite overtake the Bucks thereafter.
Wallace finished with eight points, 12 rebounds, eight assists, two steals and a blocked shot, but was again left to lament the Nets' inability to break through for a much-needed victory.
“It seems like guys are content with the situation that we are in, and I’m [expletive] off about us losing, especially losing the way we are losing," said the always hard-working forward.
Even Nets CEO Brett Yormark took to Twitter to complain about the team's winter malaise, though he pointed out that he was also referencing a microphone failure during the national anthem prior to Brooklyn's Christmas Day defeat to the Celtics. “Nets fans deserved better today," tweeted Yormark. "The entire organization needs to work harder to find the solution. We will get there.”
Johnson, who endured a pair of last-place finishes in the Atlantic Division while general manager Billy King and owner Mikhail Prokhorov rebuilt the Nets' roster, couldn't argue with Yormark's assessment.
''It's the same thing I've been saying all along, 'We all have to get better,''' confessed Brooklyn's raspy-voiced leader.
The Bobcats (7-21) and Cavaliers (7-23) will certainly provide an opportunity for Johnson's embattled unit to "get better" in a hurry over the weekend. At 14-14, the Nets have dropped back into third place in the Atlantic, a season-high 6 1/2 lengths behind the division-leading Knicks, who found a way to beat Phoenix Wednesday night without the services of early season MVP candidate Carmelo Anthony.
If the Nets can't climb back above .500 on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues over the weekend, there could be some major organizational shakeups prior to their arrival in San Antonio for a New Yeark's Eve clash with the Spurs.
Startlingly enough, it was just a month ago that the Nets were the darlings of the NBA, having opened their state-of-the-art arena in historic fashion before climbing into a first-place tie with New York following a 98-86 win at Orlando on Nov. 30.
So much for fast beginnings.
Hoop du Jour: C Brook Lopez scored a team-high 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in Wednesday's loss to Milwaukee. The 7-foot Stanford alum also blocked three shots, and ranks sixth in the league in that category with 2.35 per game. ... C/F Andray Blatche continued to provide a spark off the bench for Brooklyn with 14 points, five rebounds, three blocks and three steals in 18 minutes. ... F Kris Humphries was inactive for the third straight game against the Bucks with an abdominal strain. ... The Nets haven't beaten the Bucks since March 3, 2009. ... G Joe Johnson, who was supposed to help complete the "beat backcourt in the NBA", managed 13 points on 5-of-15 shooting Wednesday, failing to hit at least three 3-pointers for the first time in five games. "We gave ourselves a chance, we just couldn’t make the big plays," Johnson said after the Nets' latest loss. "We cut it to four and then had a costly turnover. In that fourth quarter, man, it just seemed like we couldn’t get over the hump."