As the Nets mounted a late comeback against the Milwaukee Bucks — and then fought through three overtimes — there was one player noticeably absent from the floor: three-time All-Star and Nets once-franchise player Deron Williams.
But after the Nets scraped out the 129-127 win, he doesn’t seem to mind.
“Coach has made it clear several times this year, he does things to win games,” Williams said after the game. “He went with the best lineup to win the game. So I got no problem with it.”
Williams left the game in the third quarter with 6:45 remaining and the Nets trailing 79-65. The Nets mounted a comeback with Jarrett Jack on the floor, and coach Lionel Hollins stuck with Jack for the entirety of the fourth quarter and first overtime, only subbing Williams in for a two-minute stint to open the second overtime. Jack finished the game with 41 minutes played to Williams’s 22, and the two didn’t share any time on the floor together.
Hollins asserted the lineup choice was team-driven, not Deron-driven. “Everything’s okay with Deron,” Hollins confirmed. “I just made the decision to go with Jarrett, and we got rolling. We came back and I actually kept everybody out, and in the end, I put Joe (Johnson) and Thaddeus (Young) back in, and I just left Jarrett in the game.” Hollins also kept Brook Lopez — who finished the night with a game-high 32 points and a season-high 18 rebounds — on the bench in the fourth quarter until the final two minutes of regulation.
Williams made just one of six shots on the night, scoring four points and dishing five assists. Jack hit five of 11 shots, adding eight rebounds and seven assists, but also turned the ball over five times in the victory.
The two point guards have played fewer minutes together on the floor, as the numbers bore out that they struggled together, and the big minutes have belonged to Jack. He’s played in 104 minutes classified as “clutch situations” by NBA.com[note]”Clutch situations” defined as a game within five points and within five minutes of ending[/note] to Williams’s 78. Since the All-Star break, that disparity is 36 minutes to 22 in favor of Jack.
The victory put the Nets just 1.5 games back from the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and they could climb further up the ladder tonight against the Indiana Pacers, who are tied with the Celtics for that last spot.
“We played like a desperate basketball team tonight,” Jack said after the win Friday. “A team that knows it’s all or nothing with what’s at stake for us as far as postseason contention is concerned. We laid it all out there on the line. The crazy thing is, we got one in less than 24 hours, and we gotta do this whole thing all over again.”
If they have to do the whole thing, overtimes and all, time will tell if Williams is a spectator once again.