Deron Williams has certainly come a long way since that errant pass cost the Nets a win against the Toronto Raptors on Jan. 27. That dejected and hesitant player did not mirror one of the league’s best point guards.
His transformation continued Wednesday night at the Barclays Center, though. Williams caught fire late and knocked down the dagger jumper in a 104-99 win over the Charlotte Bobcats. He finished the game with 25 points and eight assists. Not only did Williams commit just one turnover but the Nets as a whole only coughed up the ball seven times.
Perhaps more importantly, Williams limited his counterpart, Kemba Walker, to seven points on 2-for-8 shooting.
“Deron took control of the game, and made plays on both ends,” head coach Jason Kidd said. “I thought he did a great job tonight. ... I think his play is speaking for his (health) at both ends.”
Williams has battled ankle injuries throughout most of the season, but he underwent platelet rich plasma injections and rested during the All-Star break. That combination did the trick, and Williams has run the floor like a new player.
“He’s in the fight with the guys,” fellow guard Shaun Livingston said. “I think that gives you confidence alone. When you’re in the trenches, you’re battling, we all have each other’s back, and you have your teammates’ confidence, then that gives you confidence. His has grown throughout the season, as he’s gotten healthier, he’s played his best basketball.”
Williams has picked the right time to find his groove. The Nets sit just 2.5 games behind division-leading Toronto, and they are currently fifth place in the Eastern Conference. With the regular season nearing a close, his health and mindset remain on the rise.
Williams has accumulated 53 points in last two games, which marks the most for the point guard in any consecutive games this season.
“I think the confidence is getting back,” Williams said. “That’s a good thing for me. I tend to play well when my confidence is high, so we’ve just got to keep it there, keep attacking, keep being aggressive.”
His demeanor has improved by leaps and bounds as well. When discussing the game, he is projecting with confidence and enthusiasm. That bodes well for the Nets going forward.
His teammates know that he is the straw that stirs the drink too. In order for Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson to continue getting open looks, Williams must have the ability to drive to the rim and draw defenders.
The Nets’ starters provided the proof.
Williams’ running mates combined for 55 points, and only Pierce was held to single-digit scoring. Johnson scored 20 points while Livingston added 17.
The Nets can withstand injuries to some players, but the team clearly does not function without a healthy Williams. He has thrusted the Nets back into the mix for the third seed.
Williams refused to put the cart before the horse, though.
“It’s two games, just got to keep playing,” he added.