Deron Williams made his return to the court on Friday afternoon in Boston and the Brooklyn Nets continued to roll with a thrilling 109-107 victory over the Celtics.
After missing two games with a calf strain, D-Will came off the bench in Friday’s win and was effective in his limited action. He played just a shade under 21 minutes and tallied eight points on 2-of-6 shooting. He also pitched in four rebounds and four assists to the winning effort.
As he works his way back into the lineup after a week away, Nets coach opted Lionel Hollins to bring D-Will off the bench for just the seventh time since his rookie year. The other six occasions all came last season, when Deron was making his way back from an ankle injury, so No. 8 isn’t a stranger to playing a reserve role with the Nets.
“The first group is going well together right now, so there’s no reason to change anything up,” Deron said after the game. “I’m all for the team. It doesn’t really matter to me. I’m still trying to get my rhythm back and obviously I’m on a minutes restriction right now, so I’m all for it.”
Jarrett Jack got the start in his stead and held down the point guard spot with an excellent performance, including a game-high 27 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
“We’ve been coming together this past month,” Jack said of Brooklyn’s three-game win streak. We’ll just keep trying to build on this positive atmosphere that we’re creating and just try to ride this wave as long as we can.”
D-Will entered the game for the first time with six seconds left in the opening quarter and the Nets down four. But moments later, Jack splashed a three to make it a one-point game after one.
Early in the second, Deron showed no ill effects from his injury as he drove to the basket with burst and drew two shooting fouls in the first two minutes of the quarter. He sank 3-of-4 free throw attempts, helping the Nets stay within striking distance of the lead.
As the quarter went on, No. 8 began to get more comfortable and was soon finding teammates with pinpoint passes to push Brooklyn ahead. His feed to Mirza Teletovic on the drive for a finger roll pulled the Nets within one and moments later off a Boston turnover, he led a fastbreak to the rim, where when he found Mason Plumlee with a no look pass for a layup that put Brooklyn in front 41-40.
Shortly thereafter, at the end of a long stretch on the floor, D-Will checked out of the game with 3:13 left in the half and the Nets in front by four. At halftime, the score was knotted at 56-56.
Deron Williams looked good in his 10 minutes. Had three points and two assists but could've had a few more assists with some made shots.
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) December 26, 2014
However, Boston came out red-hot in the third quarter and put Brooklyn back behind quickly. By the time Deron returned to the floor with 5:22 left in the third, the Nets were behind by 11.
D-Will did his best to help the Brooklyn offense close the quarter strong and with a minute left in the frame and the Nets down by 12, their biggest margin of the night, he found Teletovic for a three to cut the deficit to nine. Then, after a miss by Boston on the other end, No.8 got the rebound and brought the Nets back up the court with 17.8 seconds left in the third, No. 8 knocked down a buzzer-beating fadeaway jumper to make it a seven-point game going to the fourth.
— Lenn Robbins (@LennRobbins) December 26, 2014
Deron Williams hits a buzzer-beating turnaround. Celtics 86, Nets 79. End of 3. Bad third quarter, but it could have been worse.
— Andy Vasquez (@andy_vasquez) December 26, 2014
After closing out the third, D-Will played the first seven minutes of the final frame and helped Brooklyn pull within striking distance of the lead.
Early in the fourth, Boston extended the lead back to double digits on multiple occasions, but each time, Deron and the Nets reserves had an answer. First it was No. 8 with another trip to the line, where he made 1-of-2 and cut the deficit to nine. Then, after a layup by Brandon Bass, D-Will answered with one of his own on a finger roll after an explosive drive to the rack, a good sign for the recovering point guard late in the game.
“I felt pretty good considering I haven’t done much in the last couple days,” he said afterward.
Later in the frame with the Nets still down nine, D-Will found a cutting Alan Anderson for a layup to make it a seven-point game. On the other end, Brooklyn got a stop and Deron snatched the rebound. From there, he pushed the ball ahead in transition and the possession ended with a trey by Anderson to make 97-93.
It was 99-95 when D-Will gave way to Jack with 5:11 left in the game and the transition was seamless as, less than a minute later Jack knocked down a jumper to tie the game at 99-99.
Boston pulled ahead by three with two minutes left on a trey by Sullinger, but Anderson answered with a triple of his own to tie it at 104. Then, with under a minute to go, Jack took the game into his hands as he grabbed the rebound off a Celtics miss, dribbled upcourt, got to a spot at the free throw line and drilled a jumper to give the Nets a 106-104 lead.
He later made a pair of free throws to put Brooklyn in front by four with 5.4 seconds left, but after Avery Bradley made a three to make it a one-point game, Joe Johnson made just one of two from the line. This left Boston with a chance to tie or win with 1.8 second left, but despite a perfect pass the length of the court by Gerald Wallace, Sullinger missed a baseline fadeaway at the buzzer, allowing the Nets to hold on for their third straight victory.
“I saw a lot of heart, tenacity and perseverance,” Hollins said. “We just kept battling. We made big shots, but we also played good defense and we rebounded the ball very well.”
The Nets (12-15) will finish off a back-to-back at home on Saturday against the Indiana Pacers (10-19) at the Barclays Center. The game will mark the first of three between the two teams this season.
Deron is expected to remain on a minutes restriction for that game and may once again come off the bench in a reserve role.
Tip-off from Brooklyn is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on YES Network.
- D-Will: Comfortable coming off the bench (ESPN New York, Dec. 26, 2014)
- Nets run win streak to three games (NY Daily News, Dec. 26, 2014)
- Nets backups beat Celtics (NY Post, Dec. 26, 2014)
- Hello three-game win streak (Nets Daily, Dec. 26, 2014)
- Nets grind out comeback win vs. Celtics (The Brooklyn Game, Dec. 26, 2014)