Jeez, Deron Williams.
It’s been a rocky tenure in a Nets uniform for the franchise point guard, who has dealt with as many questions about his bulky contract as he has about his balky ankles. His rabbit-in-a-hat game has disappeared and reappeared more times than anyone could ever keep track.
But Friday night against the Toronto Raptors, it was all in plain sight: Williams finished with 31 points and 11 assists, the first time he’d hit 30 & 10 in a game since April 12th, 2013,[note]He also hit those numbers that season in the playoffs, during the triple-overtime game against the Chicago Bulls.[/note] capping his scoring with a three-pointer to put the Nets up 109-107 with 46 seconds left, in a game the Nets eventually won 114-109. It was the first three-pointer Williams had made in the final minute of a game within three points in a Brooklyn Nets uniform.
He looked agile, strong attacking the lane, and confident in his shots, something that the Nets have wanted all too often and have gotten far too little.
“It’s been really hard at times to get into a rhythm out here this year,” Williams admitted. “I feel like the last couple of games, I’ve been more aggressive and been able to get into a rhythm. Coach (Lionel Hollins) drew up some plays for me. I feel really good out there.”
Williams improved upon what was arguably his best game of the season two nights earlier, a 26-point, 7-rebound, 7-assist performance against the New York Knicks. In his last four games, Williams has averaged 20.3 points and 8.8 assists per game on 53.4-57.9-88.9 shooting splits. That type of shooting isn’t sustainable, but something has clicked with Williams in this past week, particularly driving to the basket.
“He kept us close,” Hollins said. “He made big shot after big shot. He penetrated and then at the end, he hit the three. We ran the play for Joe (Johnson), and he didn’t have a shot, but he penetrated off the pick-and-roll and threw it back to Deron. Deron hit the big three that put us up by two, after we were down one.”
“The way D-Will’s been, he’s been running the club and setting the pace for us,” Brook Lopez added. Lopez finished with 30 points, 12 of those coming off assists from Williams.
Jarrett Jack, Williams’s backup at point guard, leads the team with 591 fourth-quarter minutes played, and ranks second to Joe Johnson in minutes in the second half. But Lionel Hollins kept Jack benched throughout the final 24 minutes, noting that he “wasn’t confident” in the bench, and let Williams run the show. “We just weren’t guarding and we weren’t scoring, so I decided when I left the locker room I was going to ride those guys and try to see if they could bring us home,” Hollins said.
Williams responded. After what he called a “couple no-calls” on what he believed were fouls, Williams caught fire, hitting four straight shots for 10 points on four possessions to keep the Nets afloat.
“They can’t stop Deron Williams! He’s angry!” You’ll hear Ian Eagle say on the broadcast. He was right on both counts.