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Stack Dunks on Sixers, Nets Split Atlantic Pair 12.26.12 - 11:38am

by Alex Sims

The roller coaster December for the Brooklyn Nets has continued into the holidays.

Brooklyn was able to stop its three-game skid on Sunday evening by thwarting a feisty comeback effort from the Philadelphia 76ers 95-92. But two days later on Christmas Day the Nets were dropped themselves in the Barclays Center by a determined Boston Celtics squad, 93-76.

The Nets started strong against the Celtics on Sunday, but Boston bounced back and took control—a lesson Jerry Stackhouse believes Brooklyn can take from the defending Atlantic Division champions.

"We've got some young guys that haven't really won at a huge level, and that's part of it," Stack said after Tuesday's loss. "Having that mentality that when things go rough, that we can weather the storm. I don't know if that's a mentality that we have yet, but you can grow into that."

In Sunday's contest with the Sixers, Stack made his return from a five-game absence after injuring his knee attempting to deter a shot from Jason Kidd in the waning seconds of Brooklyn's 100-97 loss to the New York Knicks.

Jerry returned to action on Sunday and showed no ill effects from his injury (Getty Images).

Stack was eased back into action a bit, netting four points, an assist and a steal in less than 13 minutes of action. The game was very evenly contested throughout, with each team holding an advantage in two quarters of play. However, Brooklyn was able to build a lead in the third thanks to a huge frame from guard Joe Johnson.

Johnson went 2-of-2 from three en route to a 10-point quarter, which culminated with a deep 31-foot buzzer-beating triple. That shot gave the Nets a five-point advantage going into the fourth, but the Sixers would cut that lead down within the first minute of the final frame.

With the Nets up just one with less than 10 minutes to go, No. 42 made a key play, corralling a loose ball in transition and finishing with slam. That dunk answered the questions from early in the season regarding the spring left in Stack's knees.

The dunk brought a rise out of the Brooklyn bench and the fans at the Barclays Center, but the Sixers managed to stymie the Nets momentum boost. As Philly continued to battle, Brooklyn point guard Deron Williams stepped in and started making plays. He had nine key points and two assists down the stretch, including seven points in the final minute and four seconds. He and Johnson's late free throws iced the game in the end and gave Brooklyn a much-needed victory.

The Nets were able to carry that momentum over early on in Tuesday's tilt with the Boston Celtics. Williams had a strong first quarter, netting five points and four assists, while Stack found his groove late in that first frame.

In the final 30 seconds of the first, the veteran swingman made a swift turnaround in the post and buried a 10-foot jumper to give Brooklyn a five-point lead. At the start of the second, he made almost an identical move, nailing a shot from the same spot.

Two possessions later, after the Celtics had tied the game, Stack drilled his first three since returning from injury.  However, a minute later, Boston would retake the lead—an advantage they would never surrender. When asked went wrong on Christmas Day, Stack pointed to the free throw line for the Nets, who shot just 59 percent from the charity stripe.

"We missed a ton of free throws," Stack said. "I think the free throws alone could have given us a good chance to be in the game and make it an interesting game in the end. We fought back a little bit, but for the most part, even with the turnovers we had, and the missed free throws, we still had looks in the second half that we've just got to make."

Brooklyn missed 12 free throws in total, a figure that made a recovering from a deficit a tough order. The Celtics went on a run to finish out the second and the Nets were never able to regain control, leaving Brooklyn with something to think about heading into Wednesday's contest in Milwaukee.

"You can't be a front-running team, a team that only can have energy and have enthusiasm when things are going well," Stack said after the loss. "Things are going to go bad in an NBA game, in some NBA games and during an NBA season, and we've just got to get better at that."

Brooklyn (14-13) will have a chance to show its resilience with a quick turnaround on Wednesday against the Milwaukee Bucks (14-12).

Milwaukee had Brooklyn's number in the first meeting between the teams earlier this month. The Nets started slow in that contest, leaving their comeback short in a 97-88 loss. They'll look to start better this time around in order to pick up some much-needed momentum for the coming weeks.

"We need a win to take away this loss," Williams said Tuesday. "This leaves a sour taste in our mouths, so hopefully we can come out and play with a little more energy and consistency."

In that game, Stack had nine points off three triples, along with an assist and a block.

The game is slated to tip-off at 8 p.m. EST from Milwaukee and will air on the YES Network.


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