A little rest went a long way for Deron Williams.
After missing Friday night's game with what the team called right patella tendinitis, D-Will was back in the lineup on Sunday night as the Nets hosted the Orlando Magic and proved to be an important cog in the winning effort.
Looking refreshed after his three-day reprieve from NBA action, No. 8 tallied 16-points on 5-of-10 from the field, including 4-of-7 from beyond the arc, and added five assists and four steals as Brooklyn bounced back from Friday's loss with a 97-88 win over the Orlando Magic at Barclays Center.
The Nets needed every one of those contributions to pull off the win over a young and hungry Magic team that had beaten Brooklyn just four days earlier in Orlando.
D-Will made his mark on the game on the very first play, when he ran behind Orlando rookie Victor Oladipo, caught a beautiful feed from Kevin Garnett and finished with an easy layup for the game's first points.
Beautiful cut by Deron Williams to start the game. #Nets
— FromRussiaWithDunk (@FromRussiaWDunk) April 13, 2014
No. 8 later got his first assist on a pass to a cutting Andrei Kirilenko, his long-time teammate who was getting a rare start with Shaun Livingston out. Despite those early buckets, the Nets struggled to find an offensive rhythm in the first quarter and fell behind by eight points less than five minutes into the game.
As the quarter wound down, however, Deron helped his team cut into that lead.
Brooklyn was down by five with under four minutes left in the frame when D-Will extended his franchise-record and league leading steal streak to 29 games with a strip off a Oladipo pass. He then dished it to Mason Plumlee, who finished with a slam to pull the Nets within three.
Moments later, D-Will missed a bank shot that would have brought Brooklyn within one, but he followed that by answer an Orlando basket with a trey to cut the Magic lead to just two points with under three minutes left in the opening quarter.
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) April 13, 2014
Despite Deron's best efforts, Orlando held a three-point advantage at the end of the first. The Nets reserves came back in the second and took a brief lead, but when No. 8 checked back in with 8:40 left in the half, the score was even at 34-34.
D-Will helped his team stay with the hard-charging Magic in the second, mostly by playing solid defense and refusing to let Orlando shoot from the perimeter. He got his only assist of the quarter on a dish to Andray Blatche for two, which briefly cut the Nets deficit back to one. But the Magic re-extended it and through 24 minutes of play, Orlando held a slim 49-46 lead.
Much of Deron's best work came in the second half as the Nets overcame the halftime deficit. He tallied 11 of his 16 points, two of his five assists and three of his four steals in the game's final 24 minutes.
In the third quarter, with the teams locked in a tight back-and-forth battle, D-Will helped the Nets pull ahead for good.
He kicked it off with his second steal, and the Nets took the lead shortly thereafter thanks to success at the free throw line from Paul Pierce. However, Orlando had an answer and back-to-back threes by Moe Harkless and Arron Afflalo put the Magic ahead five just 3:15 into the second half. But it was the last lead Orlando would be able to enjoy.
No. 8 responded with a trey of his own, which kicked off an 18-2 Nets run during which D-Will scored or assisted on four three-pointers.
Mirza Teletovic tied the game with a dunk midway through the third and D-Will allowed the Bosnian big man took also give the Nets the lead when he dished to Teletovic for a three that made it 62-59.
Deron Williams is the smartest basketball player I've ever seen.
— Daniel Melendez (@Commander_Dan_) April 13, 2014
Deron followed Mirza's trey with a steal and although that takeaway didn't lead to a basket, No, 8 did keep the pedal down and assisted on a Joe Johnson 3-pointer to put the Nets up six with 4:19 left in the third.
He followed that with yet another steal that got he and Johnson out in transition. D-Will passed to Joe, but the other member of Brooklyn's Backcourt dished it right back, allowing Deron to bury a three that put the Nets in front 68-59 with under four minutes left in the third.
Brooklyn continued to pour it on from there and with less than a minute to go in the quarter, D-Will crossed up his defender and add another triple that gave Brooklyn its largest lead of the night at 13 points.
Deron Williams has the prettiest crossover
— Pdub (@P_Dizzle_FoSho) April 14, 2014
Deron Williams' crossover is better than yours. #Nets
— Reed Wallach (@ReedWallach) April 14, 2014
The Nets led 79-70 through three quarters of action. D-Will finished the third frame, 3-of-5 from the field, all from downtown and played all 12 minutes.
With the lead comfortably in hand, Coach Jason Kidd was hoping to give Deron, Johnson, and Kevin Garnett some well-earned rest in the final quarter.
But with 5:26 remaining, an E'Twaun Moore dunk trimmed Brooklyn's lead to just six points. Kidd immediately called a timeout and inserted his starters back into the contest to ice the game.
"I still understand that we're playing for something," the coach said afterward. "We'd like to get that fifth spot but we have two games left against the Knicks and Cleveland. We have to continue to get healthy and get better each time we take the floor. That's one reason why I brought those guys back late in the fourth to give them a different situation of time and score and being able to execute and get stops."
D-Will's presence proved vital, as he grabbed a key defensive rebound and made two clutch free throws in the final minutes to secure a 97-88 victory.
Deron Williams has that playoff confidence about him tonight.
— Reed Wallach (@ReedWallach) April 13, 2014
Deron finished the night third on the team in scoring with his 16 points, behind Teletovic's 20 and 17 from rookie Mason Plumlee, who has been a revelation for Brooklyn and created a bit of a logjam up front with both Kevin Garnett and Andray Blatche now healthy.
After the game, No. 8 spoke about the possibility of Brooklyn shifting to a larger lineup like they did before Brook Lopez went down, rather than playing Paul Pierce and other small forwards at the four.
"We know we're going to have to use those lineups in the playoffs," D-Will said of the Nets going big with two of Garnett, Blatche and Plumlee,. "I think that's the reason [Kidd] threw it out there, because at some point where going to play a lineup where we're going to have to play two bigs at the same time."
The Nets won't have that type of challenge on their hands on Tuesday, but they won't have an easy night at the office either as they play their final home game of the regular season against a bitter rival.
Less than two weeks after their last meeting, Brooklyn will do battle with the New York Knicks at Barclays Center on Tuesday, the final meeting of the season between the cross-town rivals. Brooklyn will be aiming to get revenge for a 110-81 loss to New York at Madison Square Garden on April 2.
Despite their misfortune in the last meeting, D-Will and the Nets go into Tuesday's game with something to look forward to that New York's other team doesn't: a berth in the playoffs. The Knicks were eliminated from playoff contention over the weekend when the Atlanta Hawks won twice, including once over the Nets, to clinch the eighth and final spot in the East.
Deron said after Sunday's game that being New York's only playoff team could have a big impact on the Nets place in The City That Never Sleeps.
"I think it'll be good for us to be the only team playing and all of the focus being on us as far as the fans are concerned," D-Will said. "I think that's good for Brooklyn basketball, and I think it's good for our brand. The attention is going to be on us, and we have to make the most of that opportunity and hopefully put together a run."
Before that, they'll do battle with the Knicks, looking to finish the season even in their matchups for the second straight year.
D-Will has played in just two of the three previous meetings between the two teams this season. He managed 12 points in the April 2nd loss and scored 13 points in a Nets win at Madison Square Garden on January 20th. That game was shortly after Deron returned from an ankle injury and he actually came off the bench in Brooklyn's 103-80 victory.
But with the playoffs looming, No. 8 isn't much concerned about the rivalry between the two teams and what role it might play in Tuesday's game.
"It doesn't matter to me at this point," Deron said. "We're just worried about the playoffs, worried about what's going on in this locker room and what we're doing on the court. So as far as that's concerned, like I said, it definitely would be good for the city to have a strong rivalry between the boroughs, but there's still a lot of time."
The nationally televised tilt is set to tip off at 8 p.m. EST and can be seen on TNT.
- Nets upend Magic 97-88 (Associated Press, April 13, 2014)
- Nets Use Late Flurry to Dispatch Magic (NY Times, April 13, 2014)
- Milestones Mean Little When Playoffs Arrive (Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2014)
- Mason Plumlee scores 17, as Nets top Magic (NY Daily News, April 13, 2014)
- Nets defeat Magic, 97-88 (Newsday, April 13, 2014)
- Nets roll past Magic, 97-88 (The Record, April 13, 2014)
- Pierce gives Nets a scare in win (Examiner.com, April 13, 2014)
- Mirza Teletovic leads Nets to win over Orlando (Metro NY, April 13, 2014)
- Nets dispose of Magic easily, 97-88 (Nets Daily, April 13, 2014)
- D-Will: Knicks-less playoffs helps BK brand (ESPN New York, April 15, 2014)
- Payback: Nets 97, Magic 88 (The Brooklyn Game, April 13, 2014)
- D-Will: Knicks-less playoffs helps BK brand (ESPN New York, April 13, 2014)
- Nets Notes: Paul Pierce is OK (The Record, April 14, 2014)