Improved Nets know they're not elite team yet

Deron Williams controls the ball against the Oklahoma

Deron Williams controls the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant during a game at Barclays Center. (Dec. 4, 2012) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

Kris Humphries wasn't in the mood for a pat on the back.

"A loss is a loss to us," the Nets power forward said after a 117-111 defeat against the Thunder Tuesday night. "We are not the Nets of the past few years. No moral victories. We are trying to win games.

"We can't go on losing streaks. That's not what this team is about."

Deron Williams chose to offer a different perspective on the conflict of emotions the Nets are feeling after back-to-back losses to the defending champion Heat and the Thunder.

In those games the Nets were missing two key components. Brook Lopez didn't play in either game as he recovers from a foot injury, and Reggie Evans sat out Tuesday with flu-like symptoms. So Williams thinks they can take some solace in the way they still hung with both teams.

"I feel good," Williams said. "The last two games were against teams that were in the Finals. I thought we played them tough [Tuesday]. We played them tough the first half of the game in Miami. These are two teams that have been together for a couple of years. They have grown at the highest level and they know how to play together.

"We are still trying to figure things out. We've had some good wins, but these two kind of humble you and show us that we still have a little bit of a way to go before we can be considered one of the upper-echelon teams."

Andray Blatche is confident the Nets (11-6) are close to becoming the team they want to be.

"I mean, we are right there," said Blatche, who's more than holding his own as he steps in for Lopez, averaging 17.7 points and 9.3 rebounds in three starts. "We didn't have all our guys. We are right there. We are turning the corner."

But they're not going to straighten the wheel as they round the bend until they can get Williams and Joe Johnson clicking at the same time. Williams had that breakout game he desperately was seeking, pumping in a season-high 33 points against the Thunder.

Johnson, though, struggled again, missing 13 of 21 shots. He didn't even take a free throw, the lone Nets starter not to do so. Only once in the first 17 games have he and Williams cracked the 20-point plateau together.

"We have yet for me and him to really have a game we've been looking for, to get that cohesiveness going," Johnson said. "It's going to take a little time, but when it comes together, it's going to be fun to watch and it's going to be fun to play. So we are still working some things out, but we'll be all right."

Wallace fined for flopping. Nets forward Gerald Wallace was fined $5,000 for his second flopping offense, Saturday in Miami.

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