PHILADELPHIA — The game didn’t get interesting until late in the fourth period, but rookie Terrence Williams and second-year player Chris Douglas-Roberts gave reasons to believe the Nets could be fun to watch this season.
Fun doesn’t always equate to wins, though, as the Nets wasted a 16-point fourth-quarter lead and fell 93-92 in a preseason game here last night. But the young guys forced turnovers, ran the floor, scored in transition and showed their athleticism and versatility, driving and dunking against the Sixers’ defense.
Williams and Douglas-Roberts will be in the Nets’ rotation, and it’s possible one of them could start. The small forward job seems to be the only one up for grabs, figuring Courtney Lee is the starting shooting guard.
Lee has missed both preseason games with injuries to each foot. He sat tonight for precautionary reasons. When Lee is healthy, he will be a big part of what the Nets do on both ends of the floor. So obviously, the Nets will look much different than what we’ve seen.
Williams and Douglas-Roberts led a spirited effort and combined on an impressive defensive stretch in the second period. The Nets had three steals in a row, leading to two fastbreak buckets by Douglas-Roberts, one that Williams fed. They nearly had a third, but Douglas-Roberts’ lob to Lopez was knocked away. Williams and Douglas-Roberts each had one steal in that span.
Douglas-Roberts led the Nets with 20 points, including a go-ahead score inside with 12.7 seconds to go. Williams had 12 points, five boards, four assists and three steals. Their contributions were needed because Devin Harris left the game with a sprained left ankle in the third period and didn’t return. He said he’s fine. Yi Jianlian fouled out with just seven points, further depleting the Nets’ core.
Whether Douglas-Roberts and Williams can do it every night is the question that still needs to be answered. At least Douglas-Roberts backed up his 21-point night against the Knicks with another good offensive performance.
Williams knocked down a few baseline jumpers and had an impressive driving lefty dunk. He also showed his great vision with a bullet pass from near the three-point arc inside to Yi for a slam.
“It was good,” coach Lawrence Frank said. “The experience was tremendous. There are lot things you teach that they’ll learn and get.”
Frank was referring to some defensive mistakes that he probably wouldn’t have been so blasé about if it were the regular season. The Nets’ youngsters fouled shooters and left Jason Kapono alone for a game-tying three in the final minute.
It was important that they experienced this type of game. That was especially true for center Brook Lopez, who was having a quiet night until the fourth period when the game got tight. The Nets saw a mismatch with Lopez’s size against Marreese Speights and Elton Brand and ran the offense through him more. Lopez scored 11 of his 18 points in the final 5:42.
“He was great down the stretch,” Eduardo Najera said. “Now that Devin was out, I think we did a great job going to Brook and he responded.”
Frank changed up the starting lineup and the rotation that he used Sunday against the Knicks as expected. He said he would be auditioning players at multiple spots.
Williams started and Jarvis Hayes came off the bench. Tony Battie and Eduardo Najera were the first two bigs off the bench. It was the first time Najera appeared in a Nets’ game since Jan. 31 against the Sixers.
One interesting lineup featured Harris, Trenton Hassell, Battie, Najera and Jarvis Hayes. Don’t know how much run that group will get in the real season — our guess is not much — but they outscored the Sixers 10-6 with Najera scoring five and Battie three.
Najera was solid and showed what he can do for this team. But the play of the three young guys has to give the Nets hope, especially since two other cornerstones either didn’t play or sat most of the second half with ankle injuries.