EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - On one end of the main practice court, Deron Williams kept hoisting away by himself.
The Nets point guard moved to various spots, including the 16-foot vicinity along the left baseline where he misfired in a Game 2 loss at Atlanta Wednesday night. His shooting stroke hasn't been there consistently in the Eastern Conference first-round series, which resumes Saturday at Barclays Center, and Williams was succinct Thursday when asked about the state of his game.
"I just came off two points, 1-for-7,'' he said. "I can play better.''
For the Nets to make this a series and climb out of their 2-0 hole, Williams must do just that. Sure, he's averaging seven rebounds and five assists, but he's made only 33 percent of his shots and couldn't come through in Game 2, when he missed that wide-open jumper that could have tied it with 10.9 seconds remaining.
Williams' shot has betrayed him all season, as he shot a career-low 38.7 percent. He's become hesitant, but Lionel Hollins isn't alarmed by his struggles from the perimeter.
"Well, would we like Deron to score more? Of course, but Deron is playing his heart out,'' Hollins said. "He's giving us what he has.
"Shots come, shots go. Everybody wants to talk about, 'He only had two points.' So what? It's just basketball. If you don't have the opportunities and you don't make shots one night, that doesn't mean you're not playing well.
"I think the scoring aspect is overstated. If he scores a little more, makes a few more shots, we're happy. But if he makes shots and plays poorly, what's the difference?''
Williams has been a human piñata these last few weeks, getting scorched verbally by the Wizards' Paul Pierce and television analysts Chris Webber and Reggie Miller, to name a few.
"Who cares what Reggie says? Reggie's had bad moments himself in the playoffs,'' Hollins said. "All these guys act like they've never made a mistake, never missed a shot. All they are are talking heads now. They're not basketball players anymore.''
Brook Lopez said it's up to him to help Williams more and decipher the Hawks' defensive schemes, because Atlanta constantly is altering its looks against the pick-and-roll. Doing that, he believes, should alleviate some of the swarming pressure and free Williams to attack aggressively.
"Just realizing when they are changing their coverages and what they are doing,'' Lopez said. "When I really need to be setting the screen and getting him open, getting a guy off him, or when I need to be slipping out when they're trapping. Just recognizing when that stuff is happening and changing as quickly as possible in a game so he can benefit as much as possible.''
At this point, anything to aid Williams will be welcomed by a guy who's taken his share of verbal torpedoes the last three seasons.
"I feel bad for Deron and I think it's unfair, but it's life,'' Hollins said. "When you're in this business and you're in the public eye, it's going to be a lot of unfairness.''