Could you sense the crowd buzzing every time you touched it?
“Yeah,” Deron Williams said with a smile.
“Definitely. I thought they were going to boo me one time because I didn’t shoot it.”
Worries aside, Williams shot his way into the record books Friday night, hitting an NBA record nine three-pointers in the first half and matching the opponent Washington Wizards’ entire first-half output with 33 points. Williams ended the game with 42 total points and eleven three-pointers, one shy of an NBA full-game record, and led the Brooklyn Nets to a 95-78 victory. It wasn’t just the type of game that Deron Williams hasn’t had in a Nets uniform, but the type of game that few players have had in NBA history: you simply couldn’t look away when Williams had the ball in his hands. If you did for even a second, you could’ve missed history.
Barclays Center buzzed in a new way; even when the Nets were taking down the Knicks in overtime, that was a sense of accomplishment, Friday night against the Wizards was a sense of complete and utter awe. I could believe what was happening on November 26th, but tonight’s first-half performance forced me — and everyone else in the arena — into a frenzy.
“Deron, he was hot,” Reggie Evans marveled after the game. “He was hot like fish grease. He was hot.”
(Yes, Reggie is from down south. Penascola, Florida. Why do you ask?)
In a down-and-up season for Williams — he struggled with his shot to start the season — Friday night marked his best game of the season and an apex for his shooting; after shooting exactly 30% from three-point range in November & December, an 11-16 night from beyond the arc against Washington upped his three-point percentage to 47% since January 1st and a scorching 53% since his detoxifying juice cleanse and platelet-rich plasma treatment heading into the All-Star break.
“I definitely got hot, especially in that first half,” Williams said about his performance. “I just found myself really oen. They were helping off me and going under on screens, so I hit the first couple and those shots, when they leave your hand, they feel like they’re good, so I just kept shooting.
“It kind of happened so fast because I think I had like 18 a few minutes in.”
The Wizards, normally a good defensive team, made Williams’s record-setting night possible with confused defensive schemes that often left Williams wide open in the first half. When a shot went up, the Wizards collapsed inside, leaving Williams (and everyone else on the perimeter) wide open. When the ball swung anywhere beyond fifteen feet from Williams, his defender would sag off, giving him an open look. As Williams mentioned, any early screen set for Williams gave him an open look, as defenders woud go under.
Still, open shots mean nothing if you can’t convert — opposing point guard John Wall, one of the worst jump shooters in basketball, knows that better than anyone — and Williams did.
“He was unbelievable,” interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo said flatly. “He just kept making shot after shot. He got us such a cushion that the rest of the game just played out.”
Williams, who was wearing new high-top shoes, wore through multiple pairs of his new sneakers. “I blew them out. Each half, two pair. … The whole bottom (was blown out). I’ve been waiting (for them). The ones I was wearing at the beginning were low-tops. Once my ankles starting hurting, I switched out of the low-tops. … I like them, I just blew them out easy. … The sole came out.”
Williams had no idea what the shoe was called. “Hyper-something,” Williams said.